Dad’s memories: Rabbits, cars, and dog that couldn’t dog paddle


Reading a book a friend gave me about his father, I began to conjure up memories of my own, memories of adventures with our two daughters, Michele and Marcia, as they danced and tiptoed through their young lives.

Here are a few of those gems:

■ A dad must be prepared to put out a fire, both figuratively and literally. As students were being seated during a high school honors program, Michele’s lighted candle got too close to flammable hairspray and ignited her lovely head. I was leaping from my seat when a young man behind her extinguished the blaze with his hands.

■ If your child wants a pet rabbit, consider requiring a signed contract guaranteeing that the rabbit will be fed and watered without your participation. Of course, that contract soon will become null and void.

We had two rabbits. One was mean as a striped snake and stayed outside in a cage. The other one, a bunny, enjoyed the indoors on occasion. His name was Berry. It should have been Hop ’n’ Drop.

■ Our daughters were—and are—excellent swimmers, but our cocker spaniel, Rufus, was not. We would go out for a boat ride on a lake while Rufus watched longingly from the shore. Eventually, he would attempt to swim out to the boat, apparently not remembering that he couldn’t swim. One of the girls would jump in and rescue him.

■ Our girls have very different interests. Michele is a numbers person and businesslike. Marcia wants no part of business. Today, Michele leads the board of a nonprofit organization that helps people in need. Marcia is a speech pathologist working with children, not surprising since she mimicked one of her teachers at dinner nearly every evening. Hearing a particular teacher’s voice at a PTA meeting, my wife and I would whisper in unison, “Hey, that’s one of Marcia’s teachers!”

■ Both of them could tell you stories about cars. For quite a while, Michele drove an old Ford woody station wagon in which somebody’s stepson was found dead. My father-in-law gave it to me, and I gave it to Michele, enabling her to pick up doors and other remodeling items with plenty of room to spare.

 Marcia, however, was choosy about her ride. She would tell my wife, “Please don’t let Dad come pick me up in that ugly orange Gremlin of his. It’s embarrassing.”

■ We purchase our Christmas trees now, usually plastic ones, but back in the day the girls loved finding and cutting down that special cedar on their grandparents’ farm and then trying to get it to stand up straight in the house, which sometimes required a string running from the top of the tree to a hook in the ceiling.

■ Both girls liked to play possum, pretending they were asleep in the car following an outing and forcing their dad to carry them inside, one by one, their legs almost dragging the ground.

 I’d carry them today if they needed me. And if I were able.

Phil Hudgins is a retired newspaper editor and author from Gainesville, Ga.. Reach him at