When Playboy Magazine caught up with artist John Lennon in 1981 and asked what he’d been doing with himself since he stepped away from the music business in 1975, the music guru responded, “I’ve been baking bread and looking after the baby.”
Though I am a huge silent film buff, a lover of old 70’s/80’s TV shows and am often professionally involved in television production myself, ironically my wife, daughters and I don’t have a TV. We are a DVD/Youtube family – opting to poignantly select what we watch at home, then snuggle around the laptop to enjoy our entertainment. We find that indulging in movies and shows that way is more cozy than watching them on a plasma screen. It also means that our living room is usually focused more inwardly on conversation, painting, dancing, communal singing, drumming, wooden blocks and Lego…and not always on a TV screen.
One of the DVD collections we all love is the “Little House on The Prairie” series starring Michael Landon back in the 1970’s (based on the famous books by Laura Ingalls Wilder) . We brought the discs with us from our last vacation to America and since then our three year old has fallen in love with Landon’s character Pa Ingalls (based on Laura Ingalls-Wilder’s real life father). She cries when he gets hurt, insists on kissing the picture of him on the DVD case before watching an episode, and consistently asks, “When can Pa come visit our house?”
Now, those of you familiar with the series…I ask you: Can you blame her? I mean, Pa was a gem of a man… a real “salt of the earth, cash on the barrel” sort of guy. Loved his wife passionately, made time for his daughters, gave to the neighbours, was a jack-of-all-trades (carpenter, farmer, 19th century “trucker” hauling goods between little Walnut Grove and Mankato for local merchants….even played a violin!), strong, handsome, fair, honest, unafraid to cry and pray, but also able to defend himself from physical attack and not let dogma interfere with his intrinsic passions for justice and truth. Nope ~ not too many men in the world like Pa Ingalls anymore.
Does my daughter’s pop-culture crush make me jealous? Hmmmmmm?….well, jealousy is such an ugly word… I wouldn’t say her love of Pa makes me jealous, but it most certainly has made me more aware of my own behaviour, actions and outlook on life. I mean, if my little girl sees things in Pa Ingalls she doesn’t see in me, I am in trouble, right?
Well, the good news is that, over the past few weeks my daughter has stopped asking if Pa can come over, and she’s started calling me “Pa”… which makes me light up with joy. (I respond by calling her “Half Pint”, which in turn makes her just glow. If you haven’t seen the show, catch it on Youtube and you’ll understand the reference.)
Many weeks ago, while watching a Little House re-run, my daughter saw Pa open a piece of cloth and take out a hunk of home-made bread to eat during his hard work. “What’s he eating?” She asked me. “Oh, probably corn bread.” I replied. “I want corn bread!” she declared, wanting to be like her hero.
I rustled up some ingredients, dug out a recipe and a few days later, during her afternoon nap, I whipped up my first attempt at home-made corn bread. When she woke up and came out of her room I told her there was a surprise waiting on the counter-top. Her eyes ignited and she literally ran to the kitchen with glee when I told her it was corn bread! As she sat to watch another Little House episode, pecking at a piece of the fresh, warm bread, I truly understood the words of John Lennon and why one would prefer staying at home to bake bread over working within the music business – trying to keep up with the expectations of others, the careers of colleagues and the demands of travel.
The same feeling came over me again last evening when I came in the house with the first 4 beans from our garden. Seeing my daughter, my wife and her grandmother all nibbling fresh, raw string-beans from a garden (I have tried so hard over the past two months to nurture and protect) was priceless.
Later, the tables turned on me, as during diner, my daughter came to me with some dough in her hands (made from wheat grown on her great grandmother’s land) exclaiming that she was going to make me some roti. I watched her spank the dough into a neat, thin circle…we tossed it onto the hot plate, and minutes later we huddled together with the miniature roti on a tea saucer ~ my daughter ripping off tiny pieces for me and putting them into my mouth.
“Baking bread and looking after the baby.” John Lennon said. White bread, brown bread, corn bread, roti… beats, peas, zucchini, string beans ~ doesn’t matter, there is just something so incredible about home-grown food made with love. Oh ~ eating food made from groceries and purchased ingredients can be very artistically prepared with love too…(and don’t I know it! My brother-in-law is a killer bread and muffin maker!)… but food prepared with time and love through tilling, planting, weeding, harvesting, working, sweating and hoping has a very special charm that is impossible to explain.
As my daughter and I munched the roti she’d made, she looked up mischievously at me with a grin and said – as if wanting to yank my emotional chain (which she so loves to do), “I want Pa to be my Daddy. You can be my sister, and Pa can be my Daddy.” (Alas, another stab at my masculinity to almost knock me off my chair.)
“That’s fine,” I told her, “Pa’s a great man.” I hid my jealously well and continued chewing my roti. “I’ll be whoever you want me to be.”
She smiled again, fooled by my nonchalant reply and realized she wasn’t going to get my goat. “No!” she decided, “You can be my Daddy.”
“Good.” I told her, “`Cause I already am and your stuck with me! But I’ll try to always be like Pa.”
We grinned and finished our roti.