My father recently turned 70-years-old. For the last few birthdays, I had either sent him gift certificates to his favorite local restaurants or had offered to cook for him during his next visit. I mean, what are you supposed to get for someone who already has everything he wants and doesn’t really need anything else?
I racked my brain for several days for gift ideas for him. Since I am well past nine-years-old, a new bottle of Old Spice aftershave no longer seemed appropriate. Dad enjoys movies, but fussed a bit about having to set-up a Netflix account last time I got him a pre-paid subscription. What would be something small, yet simple that he would like?
My parents have lived in my childhood home for nearly 30 years. Over the years, they have added and removed walls, bookcases, closets, etc. Storage space has been maximized to the fullest extent, as my father is obsessed with storage and organization. So needless to say, their house is full of tchotchkes and other things that my siblings and I don’t want.
Out of all of the stuff in my parent’s home, the one item that I hope to inherit someday is my father’s Mickey Mantle dinner plate. Although Mickey Mantle was best known for his hitting prowess while playing for the New York Yankees, he diversified into a number of different business ventures after his playing career, including opening-up several Mickey Mantle’s Country Cookin’ restaurants in Texas in the late 1960s. These restaurants focused primarily on country favorites such as fried chicken, catfish, and ham sandwiches. Unfortunately, they were poorly managed and didn’t stay open more than a few years.
Dad acquired the plate at some point through his various Saturday morning garage sale expeditions. I remember when he came home with it, he was really excited to have his own special dinner plate. When I was growing-up, my siblings and I always seemed to be heading in different directions during our daily activities. However, dinnertime was the one time during the day that we would regularly sit down and spend time together. Of course, it may have involved some loud talking with hand gestures (Italians do love to speak with their hands…), but it was quality family time nonetheless.
For my Dad’s birthday this year, we threw him a modest surprise party consisting of family friends and a handful of old co-workers. Of course, we had way more food than was necessary, including a pair of giant party pizzas that were so large, I had to turn the boxes sideways just to fit them inside of the house.
My daughter, Lily, was the first person to jump out from her hiding spot, and my father immediately broke into a big smile and started laughing. He was even happier when he learned that all of his children were there, as we hadn’t been all together for several years.
After the party, my father opened a small pile of cards and gifts from friends and family. He opened my present last. I had managed to find a small Mickey Mantle’s Country Cookin’ soup bowl on eBay that Mantle had signed. It came with a certificate of authenticity, which would make it easy to sell or trade at some point in the future.
And while Dad enjoyed the bowl, I realized after giving it to him that his favorite gift of the day wasn’t something that could be bought or sold. It was the time and effort that his family put into his special day. And that is a priceless gift.