My father once had a pet duck named Jangles.
Jangles imprinted on my dad and followed him from dawn until dusk. All manner of shenanigans ensue, as you may well imagine, when one has a pet duck. But there came a day when my dad’s family packed up and moved from the country to the city, to Detroit, and there was no room for Jangles in the city. My father wept. He gnashed his teeth and tore his hair and declared that if Jangles was not leaving, that he would not leave. My father was eight.
Now that you’ve been introduced, let me explain. My father is Samuel Chester Williamson, a big-freaking-deal. Born fourth of six, he decided life was meant to be interesting, not merely sustained. His life has blazed from one shining moment to the next, enchanting all the minds and mischief surrounding. I am not sure if he began by seeking out adventure or if it sought him. Either way, by the time he raised us, adventure was the standard operating mode.
A man is not defined by his children, which is lucky for my father because his kids have too much to say on the matter.
Dad is the only father we can lay claim to, and so the way he raised us is the only normal we know. Clean records, straight laced habits, and by the book tendencies aren’t found in my father’s past nor were they apparent in his childrearing prerogatives. By five, we each had a collection of pocket knives. We were taught to ski, hike, scuba, build forts, ride horses, fly planes, and engage in general tinkering with whatever lay across our paths. Above all, Dad instilled in us an aversion to fear. No, not quite that. We had a… if not healthy sense of caution, at least an abstract awareness that caution was an idea other families held in high regard.
Dad taught us how to not live out of fear, but how to live beyond the boundaries of fear.
He made room for mistakes to be made and new ideas to be sprung. We knew that our failures were never marked by him as disappointments. His identity was not contingent on his kids winning or losing the soccer game or passing or failing a class. Because of this we had freedom to pursue new sports or classes without fear of defeat. He listened to, cajoled, and encouraged new hobbies. I had no idea how lucky and how rare our experience was. The freedom to be kids and learn via mistakes is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give, and my father gave it in abundance.
With this freedom my father gave us story, the ability to name our lives as excitement, joy, striving, chasing or whatever mood falls upon us. He is the great storyteller who reminds us that what we live and how we live deserves remembrance.
Rebekah (’12) teaches English as a second language at Grand Rapids Community College. She does not drink coffee nor purchase Apple products.