Father. Dad. Pateras. Padre. Vater. Otosan. Pop. Bapa. Pere. Daddy.
Shakespeare famously said that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Billy boy sure did have a way with words didn’t he? And so it is. For me, the rose is named Baba (though I think he’d much prefer to be a cactus or something equally masculine). Baba is a word filled with love, affection, and pride.
If you’re a fair way south of the equator, you may, like me, celebrate Father’s Day today, it being the first Sunday of September. Of course, the date itself is of very little consequence. What matters is how we choose to recognise and celebrate the men that they were, are, and will be, whether they are physically with us or not.
Thankfully, I spent the day with my family. We ate a delicious meal of moussaka and tzatziki and roast beetroot and salad, all made by my Mum (a small spread for her standards). There was little conversation during lunch as we were all fully engrossed in the activity of eating. We were too busy enjoying the freshness of the cucumber in the tzatziki, the peppery sharpness of the rocket in the salad, and the cheesy bechamel of the moussaka. No words were necessary.
Conversation hour really got underway when the John Wayne film we were watching ended (the bad guy was shot dead) and tea and coffee roused us from our post lunch slump. It was time to indulge in my orange and dark chocolate cake and Mum’s absolutely perfect melomakarona mmm.
I’ve always loved story time. A good story can linger in your mind, warm your heart and ignite your imagination whether it’s a true story or a complete fiction. The stories that I have grown up with, those belonging to my grandparents and my parents will stay with me forever much like my strong aversion to vegemite (it’s way too salty for my liking).
Today, Baba told us how he came to resign from his job working at a hide factory in the 1960’s. For the purpose of this blog post, I will take some liberties in its re telling for the sake of expediency, not because the details aren’t worthy of being told, to the contrary because they are so important and require more attention than a simple blog post.
Baba was a hard worker as were the other European kids eager to earn a wage and put some food on their otherwise bare tables. And they were kids. Kids that took on the world and struggled. The men in charge were drunkards and bullies. Tom, the big burly boss, barked at a young Maltese boy named Joey. Joey was even younger than Baba, a boy with a small frame working as hard as he could. Tom yelled at him. He swore at him. He called him a bloody wog. ‘You bloody wog‘, three words my parents heard countless times in those early years. Three words they grew accustomed to hearing . Three words that never ceased to sting. Baba didn’t quite know what the problem was but attributed Tom’s outburst to an unpleasant combination of too much beer and a general meanness of spirit. In his own words, Baba said he had ‘an argument’ with Tom about what had happened. Baba told him not to yell at the workers like that. He told him they were all working as hard as they could. The very next day Baba told the bosses that he was resigning. He said he didn’t want anything to do with people like them. You could do that then, quit your job one day with a guarantee of finding another the next. Then again, not everyone wants to skin carcasses in factories all day do they? So I suppose as long as there are jobs that people don’t want to do, there will always be work for those that really need it.
I heard that story and swelled with pride. What a show of integrity. That’s my Dad.
Happy Father’s Day to one and all.