Even when I was little, I knew my dad was not “modern.” He systematically chose traditional or slower means to do most anything. If my dad had an option between driving a back road or the highway, he’d take the back road. On Sunday afternoons, we’d choose to play board games over watching TV. His attraction to all things retro was especially true when it came to family vacations. A Coleman coffee percolator and folding stove, lots of clothesline, and pup tents were standard equipment. Dad’s great escape was for all seven of us to go camping for most of the summer.
While some neighborhood children graduated from high school never having seen an ocean, we spent all summer going beach or forest camping. We came home only long enough to shake the sand (or dirt) from our belongings and to mend our canvas tent; then off we went again in our ‘70s VW bus.
The neighborhood kids teasingly dubbed our vehicle the “Quinker-mobile,” sensing our family was a throwback to an older time. The term “Quinker” came from our last name, Quinn, and the word Quaker. Suffice it to say that as transplants from New England to the more familial western Pennsylvania, we were different right off the bat—in accent, cuisine, and lack of extended family. That, coupled with my dad’s strong desire for privacy, made us ripe for labels.
My dad had retro tendencies even as a young parent. He loved the music from the ‘30s and ‘40s. He seemed to always find stations playing old crooner songs like Hoagy Carmichael’s Stardust. My dad even looked vintage. He maintained the same short brush cut he was issued on his first day as a Marine. Duty and tradition flanked his way as he led us—his small platoon.
These tendencies also spilled over into the holidays. Holiday preparation began in October with root beer production. We were like an assembly line as we bottled and stored the root beer until Thanksgiving. Then, with my mother’s home-cooked feast finally on the table, we would uncap the root beer. It was one of his traditions that we could all get behind.
As a teen, I thought my dad tried to make us culturally odd on purpose. However, as a young adult, I realized that he had built in us a sense of family identity. Within a larger culture spinning out of control, my dad had thoughtfully engineered our stable family culture. His insistence on low-tech, older ways was an effort to slow our world down so that we could be children. We grew up with a rich background of games and memories unique to us. Having only one child myself, I often retold my childhood stories to my son. As a mom, I created stories and songs for him to remember.
Belonging to Christ, I have come to realize the power of identity. With a family of people, there is joy in shared stories and meals. In the midst of hardship, we can fall in line behind what we know is true and it will light our paths, shielding us from the attacks of an enemy.
As a moral and duty-loving man, my father led us to the knowledge of right and wrong and instilled in us a faithfulness to serve. I thank God for my dad, and I stand on this promise: One day he will intimately know his heavenly Father who instilled every good thing in him.
Do you have a favorite childhood memory about your father? Share it below. We’d love to read about it!