Summer nights were magical when I was a child. We had what, at the time, seemed like an immense backyard, dotted with trees for climbing, an old cobwebby cabin where we could play house and store, and a campfire circle built out of stones.
While the fireflies danced around us, we roasted hotdogs, hamburgers, and marshmallows (this was the beginning of my love affair with marshmallows) with whatever neighbors, cousins, or friends happened to be visiting that night. Sometimes my dad pulled out his old guitar and sang the three songs he knew (our favorite was “Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pandowdy”) while we warbled along.
Every time I’m near a campfire, I’m transported back to those carefree nights, when even my dad was relaxed.
My father, Ronald Shlensky, grew up in a cozy house in the south side of Chicago, helping his dad run his pharmacy. By the time I–the third of the Shlensky children–came along, my dad had put himself through college and medical school and was working on a law degree. I’m not exactly sure what drove him to work so incredibly hard, but when he came home every evening, it took him quite a while to unwind. So those summer evenings around the fire, with my dad laughing, singing, and helping us find the perfect sticks for toasting marshmallows, were precious.
While I love to use the gas grill that my mom and dad bought Andrew and me years ago, it’s quite a different experience than our childhood cook-outs. Back then, to make sure our meal was fully cooked but not charred, we’d have to scoot around the fire to avoid the grey smoke that burned our eyes.
I love my grill, and its containing, protective lid, but I miss those simple days, and I miss my dad.
Perhaps this father’s day, you and your children would like to show the dads in your life how much you love and appreciate them by preparing one of Andrew’s favorite meals on the grill (if you have a campfire, so much the better!), Grilled Baby Back Ribs with Pineapple Glaze.
I’d also be honored if you would share one of your favorite memories with your father in the comments below.