A Father's Day Story…and Some Made in USA Gift Ideas

At the grocery store today I stopped at the greeting card aisle, saw all those Father's Day cards standing at attention and realized, for the umpteenth time, that Dad's gone. Then I thought of the bobblehead. And I had to smile.

I can't remember which of us nine kids (probably future dentist / stand-up comic, Rick) found the laughing plastic bobblehead. It actually looked like Dad. White man, black hair, in a dark business suit. Slide the tiny button in the back to the "on" position and the man would laugh and laugh and laugh; a deep, hardy, yet infectious laugh. We hated to wrap the bobblehead businessman. We'd flip the switch on, listen to that laugh, and nod our heads. "Dad's gonna love this. It's perfect."

In our unanimous opinion, Dad needed a good laugh. He looked solemn most of the time, lost as he was in his own thoughts. Now I realize he must've been worried about providing for his large family or about how best to light an upcoming film or television series. And somewhere on his worry list, I know for certain, was our own country and where it was headed. Corporations had begun to move manufacturing to Japan and Taiwan. Even Hollywood studios had joined in the offshoring trend, hiring foreign directors and cinematographers; sometimes making an entire movie overseas to save money. Dad was not a happy camper.

He'd stand at the kitchen counter on Saturday mornings, smoke swirling from his ubiquitous cigarette, reading the Los Angeles Times. "You kids don't get it. What's happening is not good for our country. I'm tellin' ya. It ain't rocket science. We gotta make stuff here. Period."

Frown, frown, frown.

So on that particular Father's Day back in the late 1960s--after Sunday mass and breakfast--we crowded around Dad and handed him our wrapped gift. "What? You kids got me something? You didn't need to do that." And for a moment, his hazel-brown eyes looked off at my Mom. "Lucy, we've got great kids. Can you believe what we started here?"

"Daaaad, come on. Just open it!"

He took the bobblehead out of its box, looked it up and down through his black rimmed bifocal glasses.

"What's this?"

The businessman silently bobbed; stared back at Dad. For a second (a long time in our house) no one said anything. Then we all piped in. "Flip the switch, Dad! Come on! Do it!"

Dad slid the tiny button over. The battery operated businessman laughed. "What the…?" He looked up at all of us. "Why'd you give me this? What are you guys, nuts or somethin'?"

The molded plastic man was still laughing. We were trying not to laugh too, but we couldn't help it. "Oh, come on Dad," one of us said. "We thought it'd make you happy cuz you know, you never smile…"

"You kids think I'm not happy? What ever gave you a cockamamie idea like that?" And saying this, he started to laugh. He and the bobblehead businessman laughed and laughed and laughed. And tears filled Dad's eyes, not from sadness but from laughing so hard. "I'm not happy? 'Course I'm happy. With kids like you, how can I not be happy? Where'd the heck to you find this damn thing? What a great idea. We shoulda invented something like this…"

After that Father's Day, Dad resumed his usual demeanor. Pensive, meticulous, given to unpredictable bursts of excitement generated by a new idea for an invention. "Hey kids, how about this: Gas station handywipes. So when you pump your gas your hands won't smell. Isn't that a terrific idea? I could make a million bucks with this one…"

And every once in a while he'd think about that bobblehead. "Remember when you kids gave me that laughing man? I can't believe you did that." And then he'd laugh all over again.

Mission accomplished.


In honor of Father's Day, here are a few USA-made gift items:

Man Grate: Heavy duty, cast iron grates that sit on top of existing BBQ grill. "holds in heat and sears the meat."

Sub 4 Men's Coolmax Sport Tee: Keep Dad comfortable while he's working out.

Red Oxx: For all of Dad's travels, near or far.

Waterfield: Bags for each and every one of Dad's (sadly, made in China) electronics. Laptop bag, iPod, iPad, iPhone holders…

Beau Ties Ltd of Vermont: What would Father's Day be without ties...bow ties, neck ties…classic ties for classy Dads.

Nordstrom's: More ties! Over 450 to choose from.

All American Clothing: Don / Richie C's favorite lightweight jacket for early morning golf.