In the sunny breakfast nook of my grandparents’ 1950’s era farm house, a plastic plaque hung above the windows on the wall at the end of the table where my grandfather always sat. It was dimply gold plastic, the type that is poured out in a sheet over a mold. It was a nice enough looking plaque, although I’m sure that there are those who would consider plastic signage in a breakfast nook a little tacky.
Maybe I was just sensitive to the quality of room decor at an early age. After all, I was sophisticated enough in my manufacturing knowledge to know that this plaque had been made by a local business “in town.” Dimension Plastics was owned and operated by the same folks who owned and operated Brown Sundries, and they surely stirred up sundry interest in plastic signage. Everywhere my six (or was it seven?) year old eyes looked, there were rectangular plastic signs, especially magnetic ones that clung to people’s cars. Those signs hung on for dear life. They had to. This was northwestern Oklahoma where the taunting wind was always threatening to sweep away, along with a bobbing parade of tumbleweeds, anything that wasn’t tightly nailed down – or in this case, tightly affixed by magnetic strips.
The sign in my grandparents’ house had no magnetic strips. Regardless of how it stayed on the wall over the decades, what stuck in my mind was what it said: “The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” It would take a few years, but after awhile I began to suspect the intentionality of this message. It wouldn’t have surprised me if my mother and her siblings hoped that these words would magically rain down and soak into my grandfather’s brain as he sat there at the table, perhaps munching on one of his famous yellow-meated watermelons. What a good rain could do for fertile ground was evidenced not only by the watermelons, but also by the view of the lush golden wheat field just outside the big picture window in the next room. At any rate, my grandparents were married over 75 years, so I don’t think there was ever really any doubt about whether they loved each other. I do, however, recall one of my aunts describing her father as a “bull-headed old Democrat.” And my grandmother was no fainting flower. Once, when I balked at trying to climb a tree, she scolded, “Don’t be a pansy!”
If my grandfather needed the reminder to love his children’s mother, I’m guessing that this might be a good admonition for the general population of fathers. If you’re reading this as a child who is wondering what to do for your mother this Mother’s Day, maybe encouraging your father in this way might be a good idea. Just don’t do it with tacky plastic signage.