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June 22, 2012

30 Days of Dads: Greg of 'Dogs on Drugs'

DoDTagMy favorite site for penis jokes, beloved cartoon characters taking peyote, and blatant calls for Congress to declare a 'National Avocado In Your Pants Day' is the humor site Dogs on Drugs. Kennel Master Greg occasionally let's it slip that he has spawned a new generation of future mental patients, so I asked him to contribute a "very special episode" to DadCentric. Though I would have happily accepted a past post he wrote on his son's documented love of his naughty bits and excrement, the bastard instead wrote a sweet and semi-coherent piece about kids buying gifts for their parents. But with requisite serial-killer references. He's a gent and an asshat. I truly admire him. -- Kevin

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Because I am incredibly old, I remember when parents could send their kids out into the world without having to worry that some lunatic with a molester-van full of candy would snatch them up and use them as unwilling participants in a personal re-creation of Silence of the Lambs.

That's not to say that it couldn't have happened; in those days, parents just chose not to worry about it.

We called it an "age of innocence," which not only sounds better than calling it an "age of willful ignorance," but has the added advantage of painting the past in a rosy, nostalgic hue that helps to explain away borderline criminal neglect. "Sure we let Charles Manson babysit the kids. It was an age of innocence!"

Handmade_Ceramic_Animals_FiguresSo when my father handed me, all of 6 years old, five dollars and instructed me to walk into town to purchase something for my mother's upcoming birthday, it wasn't an act of neglect or a sign of horribly absent parenting skills. It was just the kind of thing that parents in a Midwestern small town did back then. I was given no guidelines other than a reminder that: "Your mom likes mom-type stuff. No candy, no baseball cards, and no toys." This didn't leave a whole lot of options because you could count the retail establishments in town on one hand: The grocery store, an old fashioned candy store, a couple of bars, and a strange house that had a shop on the first floor dedicated to selling tiny, ceramic animals.

I walked into that strange house and was met by an old woman who cheerfully asked me if I needed any help.

"My mom's birthday is coming up, and I have five dollars to buy something for her," I said.

The woman smiled and said, "I bet your mom likes animals, doesn't she?" (I laugh now at how opportunistic the woman was, and that it was a good thing that she didn't sell, say, hand grenades instead.) Within a couple of minutes I was walking home carrying a small, ceramic camel.

My mother, of course, loved it and made a big show of putting it in the living room next to the upright piano she played in her spare time. Since the ceramic camel went over so well, I bought her another animal the following year for Mother's Day. And, because my brothers were as mystified by the likes and dislikes of women as I was, they began to tag along. Soon, the camel had a host of friends to keep it company: A panda, a penguin, a couple of owls, a vicious-looking bear, and several species of cat that my brothers and I argued over on a yearly basis.

"You can't get her another puma, she already has one!"

"No she doesn't, that's a leopard!"

"Leopards have spots, you're thinking of a jaguar!"

She must have accumulated 30 or 40 of those things over the years, and they all wound up in the same place: On the table, next to the piano. "I like having them there so that I can see them while I play," she'd tell us. By the time I was 10 or 11, it started dawning on me that maybe the placement had more to do with the fact that unless you were actually sitting at the piano, the animals were virtually invisible. After all, no one wants to be known to her friends as the crazy ceramic animal lady.

Decades later, my wife and I now allow our children to select gifts for themselves, although we don't allow them to walk into town to buy them what with the "age of innocence" having given way to the "age of crystal meth tweakers who kidnap random kids and stuff them into wood-burning stoves. "Their gifts are as wonderfully daffy as the ceramic giraffe I bought my mom one year that was sculpted by someone unfamiliar with both sculpting and giraffes. My wife and I have received numerous Pillow Pets, a giant nutcracker, and all sorts of odds and ends, along with some touchingly thoughtful gifts like the pink watch my 3year old selected for my wife and will demand that she wear every day for the rest of her life.

This past Sunday, Father's Day, I received a two-stage rocket that will supposedly fly a quarter of a mile into the atmosphere, some sunglasses, and a bunch of things that my two sons made me in day care the week before: A red rock with the words, "You rock, Dad!" painted on it; a pair of child-sized paper hands reading, "I love you this much!"; and an adorable handmade picture frame with a photo of my 6-year-old in it wearing an over-sized dad outfit of a button-down shirt and loosened tie. Those last few cost almost nothing to make, yet are valuable to me beyond description. I placed them on various shelves of the large bookcase in my home office.

Later on during the day, I found myself looking at them with a smile on my face as I mindlessly noodled some blues scales on my guitar, and I found myself laughing out loud when I realized with a start that I had been wrong all those years ago. I put those treasured gifts there for a very good reason: I like having them there so that I can see them while I play.

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