Blank Slates and Father’s Day

By: Kate Wallin

I mailed a $5 Hallmark card to my father today. It will arrive way too many days late to be appropriate for the occasion, Father’s Day being yesterday. It’s one of the many traits I’ve inherited from my dad: this tardiness that seems to follow us wherever we go, despite our best intentions.

Yesterday, many miles away from my family of origin, I sat in a Methodist church listening to another spiritual father-of-sorts preach. Living in Louisville, KY for the summer, I’ve been adopted into another family, a makeshift home. I roll out of bed every Sunday, wiping my sleepy eyes as I stumble into church. Only steps inside, I am greeted every week by grandmas who ask when I’m going to have babies. “No time soon,” I say, smiling firmly, while shaking their hands during the Sunday service, knowing we’ll repeat the conversation next week.

I’m learning something about being a part of their families and about being away from my own:
a blank slate doesn’t exist. We are born into a story, with a history and an inheritance. We are
heirs to our family’s traditions and blessings and challenges. We take on their expectations,
pressures and roles. I sat in my warm pew yesterday, surrounded by grandmas, thinking hard
on that very question. What expectations, pressures and roles have you been born into? Or
maybe we’ve been dispossessed of something. What has been deprived of you?

In the same way, I have lived most of my life unlearning the hard sells of the American Dream,
a story that tells us a very similar thing: you can be, do and have anything you want. But this
isn’t true. We are born into stories that are already in motion. Now, I’m not arguing that you
can’t change the story. In fact, I would argue the very opposite. But this Father’s Day I learned
nobody gets a blank slate. We do have the power to change where the story goes, even if we
don’t have the power to change where our story starts. What will you do with the story you’re
born into?

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