A Father’s Fingerprints
“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by the little scraps of wisdom.” ~Umberto Eco
This is my view right now.
I am sitting on the porch of the summer home my dad and mom purchased in 1956 on Hill Island in the magnificent St. Lawrence River.
This tiny house and its pine tree covered property is my family’s “heart home.”
Growing up, we lived here all summer, had friends and activities, but no school. It felt like our real home.
Plus, it’s the only structure we ever owned as a family; my father was an Episcopal priest and so our house belonged to the church he pastored.
But it was a big parish, with two assistants, so he got two months off every summer.
And every summer, for 66 years, my dad’s children, all six of us, plus in-law’s and grandchildren and dogs of all sizes, have gathered to gaze at this view.
Many of the most important lessons of my life—the ones that took root, the kind that determine character and values—I learned here on the rocky shoreline and pine needled paths.
The world has changed mightily since my dad first built the place with the questionable assistance of his progeny. There’s far more uncertainty in the world as it tries to right itself after capsizing during the pandemic, and much is different right here on the property: trees lost to storms, new sleeping cabins to accommodate family expansion, a larger boat house and a lot more cutlery (and wine glasses).
But the love that built it—all of us could swing a hammer by age four and were required to do so—hasn’t altered, thank goodness. Decades old fingerprints of varying sizes are still visible on some of the pine boards in older portions of the cabin, my father’s clearly identifiable by size.
He had beautiful hands.
Other large families often divvy up time at the cottage. We schedule ours so we converge en masse at least once during the summer. For this view, which, like our love for our dad, hasn’t changed a bit.
And we can each of us still swing a mean hammer—without missing the nail.
And, we still miss our dad, who died over 30 years ago.
Note the measuring tape affixed to his belt. And our first of many Golden Retrievers.
Some things don’t change.
So, to all the dads out there, happy Father’s Day.
Whether with us still or not, your fingerprints remain all over the homes you helped build in our hearts.
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This view, this heart-home, is once again available for the Trust Program on September 13–17. With an expanding family and increase use of the property, I suspect this may be the last opportunity to attend an incredible program in a magical place. If you’ve already been there, you know—so tell someone you care about. If you haven’t been there, I hope you’ll consider joining me for what will be a very special experience.