parenting

How An Old Photo of My Dad Meeting Eisenhower Inspired Me to Parent Differently

eisenhower

When I was a little girl, and my dad would tuck me into bed, I always begged for the same story. “Daddy, tell me again about the time you snuck into the back door at Carnegie Hall and watched Frank Sinatra from the side of the stage, pleeeeease.”

Not your typical bedtime story, but my dad isn’t the typical dad. He’s always been passionate about music, specifically jazz and Frank Sinatra. Whenever Frank Sinatra was in concert anywhere in the state of Florida, my parents brought my brother and me to see him. It didn’t matter if it was a school night, or three hours away. He is always up for an adventure, and he comes by it honestly.

His father, who passed away decades before I was born, was famous for jumping in the car with the family with no destination in mind, often ending up in the most fantastic places. Whenever Easter time comes around, my dad tells the story of how my grandfather gathered the family in the car Easter Sunday of 1963. They drove north from Miami and ended up at the Kennedy Compound in Palm Beach. They saw JFK and his family exiting their home, heading toward a limo. While Jackie and the kids entered the car, JFK made his way to the crowd and greeted the waiting crowd with his signature Bostonian accent, “Happy Eash-tah, Happy Eash-tah.” My dad clearly remembers seeing JFK larger than life right in front of him. We still playfully imitate JFK every Easter Sunday. It’s become a part of our family vernacular.

When my dad was 3, his parents decided they should drive from Brooklyn to Washington DC to the White House for Easter. (I’m beginning to think they were just bored Jews on Easter.) Anyway, they found themselves on the lawn for the official Easter Egg Hunt with Eisenhower himself.

I had always heard this story, and my dad vaguely remembered a photo of him and Ike in a newspaper. So recently, when I found out my neighbor was traveling to work on a construction job at the Eisenhower library in Kansas, I spoke with him about it, and he put us in touch with an archivist at the library. She sent us some photos from the Easter Egg Hunt in 1953. She agreed it was a long shot, but was happy to send us what she could find. When they came in the mail, my dad scoured over the huge crowd shots. After looking at them several times, he was delighted to find his parents in the center of a huge crowd surrounding Eisenhower himself. He even noticed his father was holding him up to be able to see the president. We could see the back of my dad’s little 3-year-old head.

This unexpected photo treasure was a great reminder to me. I have three kids. I am a stickler for our routine. I really don’t like for my kids to miss school for anything other than illness. I don’t even like for my 3-year-old to miss her nap. However, I really do try to throw in a bit of spontaneity and fun when I can.

Our family went to Star Wars 7 on opening night, even though it was a school night. My kids will never forget that. I took my 3-year-old to see Sesame Street Live last week even though I knew we’d get home well after her bedtime.

I’m trying. It’s a start. Elmo isn’t quite JFK. The movie theater doesn’t really equal The White House. But that’s OK, I still have five months until Easter. I’ve got to come up with something better by then. If not, I know who to call—my dad. He’ll think of something.


Read More:

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Confessions of a Jewish Mom

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