Pancakes, the Story
I would have posted this a day ago, however, my dad was in Ukraine with Daniel, my brother. He was spending his time showing my brother the place where he was born, where he grew up, where my parents adopted him. So I decided to wait until he returned to the States. Happy Father’s Day Dad.
Saturday mornings, a family ritual in the Newkirk household. A morning filled with sausage and bacon and waffles and pancakes. Syrup and butter abounded and sticky fingers were stuck in mouths (much to the distress of a Mom determined on getting her horde of little humans to exhibit manners).
Little feet would pound down the stairs at the smell of bacon and the sizzling sound of pancakes on the griddle. Normally, we were impossible to rouse from our slumber. But Saturday mornings were the exception.
Once down at the breakfast table (with drinks at our places of course) the Newkirk Family Choir would sing an original composition. This composition was arranged by the conductor of the choir, Kyle Newkirk. The song goes something like this…
ITS NOT YET TIME FOR BACON!
ITS NOT YET TIME FOR PIG!
ITS NOT YET TIME FOR THE PIGGY IN THE PAN,
THAT WE’RE COOKING UP TO EAT!
(If anyone needs a rendition of the song, the Newkirk Family Choir has been looking for a reason to conduct a reunion tour for a while.)
Bacon, of course, was only the sideshow for the real deal. What we were all there for was the light and fluffy pancakes that our dearest Chef Daddy made. Dad was a food scientist. And although he swears that he wrote his masters thesis on what makes pepperoni curl up when cooked, I still believe that he wrote a paper on how to make the perfect pancakes. His pancakes were light and fluffy. They were the perfect golden brown. They spread the butter just right over their surface. And they sopped up just the right amount of leftover syrup that was on the used plate.
Of course, when more than half our family realized that we had various levels of sensitivity to both gluten and cow dairy products, we assumed our pancake eating days were done. But our loving Chef had other ideas. For months, he experimented with various internet recipes that avoided those ingredients. With varying degrees of success, of course.
One of the things that I really ended up admiring about Dad, even though it was frustrating at the time, is that he was never satisfied with anything short of the best. That’s why, even when we were sure that he had made the best possible gluten free pancake, he’d keep trying new things. One week, we would tell him that this was the recipe. He should just make this one from now until the end of time. But his pursuit of excellence would drive him to try something different every week. Searching for that perfect pancake. Good enough was not enough for him. It had to be the best.
And Dad tries to be the best at everything. He even tries to beat Daniel and I at soccer. (Even though we could probably beat him if we tied our legs together before we played). He constantly reminds us that he can lift more than we can. His drive for excellence is second to none. He does not settle for being good, he has to be the very best at what he does.
However. This strength of his could easily be a horrible flaw in another man.
I understand implicitly the struggle that my father goes through with such expectations. I share the same expectations for myself and hold myself to similar standards. My father and I are, in many ways, the same.
I always wanted to be the best at literally everything there was to be done. (When I say literally, I actually mean it.) Whether that was eating more food than everyone else, reading more than everyone else, being a better soccer player than everyone else. Whenever I saw someone that was better than me at something, I immediately defined myself as not being the best at that thing and desired to be the best. And that can be unhealthy when dealt with in the wrong way. It can lead to envy or low self-esteem in a flash.
But Dad was there for that too. He showed nothing but humility and understanding when he did not live up to standards that he set for us and himself.
For example, every time that he and Mom would argue about something, Dad would come to me and Daniel afterwards and apologize to us. He would apologize for not setting a good example. He would tell us that we were not to talk to our future wives the way that he had addressed our mother. This talk was given every single time. It was given regardless of how the argument went, who was ultimately right, or what the argument was about. Our father humbled himself in front of us and asked for our forgiveness. He taught his sons a valuable lesson about treating women with respect.
As we grew older, Dad asked us to be willing to talk to him when we felt he was in the wrong. Usually our ‘talks’ would turn into yelling and crying. But he would go to his room and consider what we had told him. Then, he would come out and either apologize or explain to our immature minds how we were wrong.
He respected us as adults long before we had proven we could be trusted with such respect. He humbled himself before us. He would ask for our forgiveness whenever he felt he was in the wrong. And he did so without reservation. Frankly, I never could feel comfortable with that. The roles seemed so, odd. I could scarcely believe the man who provided so much for me could also possess such humility.
I am more than honored to be able to expose the amazing man that my father is to those who will read this. Frankly, there is much more that I could write about. But I must refrain. For it would take books to contain his many escapades and feats.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.