Thursday, December 31, 2009

"Together time" is riding shotgun on Christmas vacation

In the early morning hours of Christmas vacation, I would ride shotgun while my father drove our boxy Dodge van, tires crunching through several inches of freshly fallen snow on already frozen highways.

We were on our way to the store – our family-owned paint and hardware business – and this surely counted as "together time."

I was sixteen and old enough to help with odd jobs at the store whenever I had off days off from school. I ran errands and kept the place tidy by organizing and straightening merchandise. From time to time, I even processed bills.

The store was a main character in our family, one that sustained us in a lifelong drama agitated by Dad’s heart disease and Mother's depression.

The commerce that took place under that leaky roof fed, clothed and kept our brood of six children warm and secure in our century-old home.

The store seemed to own my Dad, not the other way around. He worked all the time, always returning home late, long after we were in bed.

Like most kids, I had an affinity for my dad. Because he did not say much to me, I got into the habit of making appeals for his attention with my heart, and sometimes in writing.

Moments like this, just Dad and me floating along wintry roads, expanded the definition of our father-daughter relationship.

While riding in silence, I would romanticize what I knew of his youth, including his WWII service in the Navy. He met Mom before he was deployed to a base in Puerto Rico. They exchanged love letters while he was stationed there for more than a year and were married when the war ended.

My dad was born to sell. During his career, he sold Chevrolet cars, Mary Carter paint, paintbrushes, rollers, adhesive, drop cloths and all the hardware accessories one could imagine.

I was in elementary school when he sold Thomas-built school buses. I rode along then, too, in spanking new buses Dad drove to waiting schools. I remember thinking he was the best salesperson ever with satisfied customers for miles around.

When I think of my dad, I gather those moments on the way to work – just Dad and me, speechless, traveling through sleeping neighborhoods, stopping while traffic lights turned green on empty peaceful street corners.

I treasure those memories like Christmas morning, rich and fulfilled.

2009 © Copyright Paula Damon. A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her columns have won first-place in National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women Communications Contests. In the 2009 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contest, Paula's columns took three first-place awards. To contact Paula, email, follow her blog at and find her on Facebook.

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