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Saturday, April 29, 2017

the owl roost

When I was a kid I always had trouble buying gifts for my dad.  Like most adults, if he needed or wanted anything he just bought it whenever he needed or wanted it.

My mom and he often disagreed on the definition of "need."

I didn't realize it at the time but everyone has trouble buying gifts for adults for the exact same reason. I think we have all fallen into the trap of latching on to the one or two things we know someone likes and beating that gift idea into the ground. It helps if the adult in question has started a collection or has had one foisted upon them.

My dad collected owls - how vigorously he would have pursued this interest if there hadn't been so many birthdays and Christmases and Father's Days to be shopped for is unclear.

My own frog obsession was started when my schoolfriend, Paula Lockyer, purchased an adorable stuffed frog (probably at a drug store) and gave her to me for my birthday sometime during junior high (probably at a sleepover in the Simmons family playroom).

The frog was most definitely a girl because her red lipstick was (and still is) fierce. Her name is Freddy Frig Frog and she decided to come with me on my first solo plane trip when I was 16. Afterwards she went on all my trips as a good luck charm.

She has since been retired as a travel companion because her bow was getting frayed and I didn't want her to lose those fantastic lips.

My father took this singular frog love to mean I needed more of them and he started bringing back frogs to me from every trip my parents took.

A frog collection was born.

I gave into the pressure and started buying my own, eventually becoming a bit of a snob, not giving as much love to the frog I received as a present if it was the same frog I already had wearing a different hat.

Buying a frog or an owl or a cat for a collector is usually a pretty safe bet because if you think it's cute, it probably is. And there are so many owl and frog and cat variations out there that you probably won't give an exact duplicate (except for when you do). The collector will most likely love it right up until she realizes she has run out of places to put it and by then the collection is a pain in the butt to dust. She will probably still secretly love it long after she has blown past that stage and has started to reduce the inventory.

So a long time ago, every April, June, and December, I dutifully went out looking for a gift for my dad. I tried to be original but too many times all I could find was the cutest owl I could find.

One time I was dismayed and delighted to find my dad had bought himself the exact same mirror shaped like the exact same white owl.

Both mirrors made their way down to our cabin, The Owl Roost, famous in ornithological circles for the hundreds of owl species that live there. There was even a popular contest to guess the number in residence. There was no real answer because no one could agree on a final tally or whether you should count the playing cards hidden in the drawer individually.

Everybody loved the owls so anyone who cared enough about my dad to buy him a gift eventually fell into the owl trap.  It was irresistible. It was inevitable.

I have even gotten owls as presents from friends who got my collecting obsession confused with my dad's.  I still have my favourites.

After my dad died far too young at 53, the owl collection at the Owl Roost ceased to grow at its previous pace.  Eventually, it started to contract as the dust and mildew of too many winters took their toll. It was often too much trouble to climb up and clean the high shelf encircling the main room of the cabin, a shelf built especially for owl display.

But the best and brightest remain, occasionally joined by the odd new owl someone couldn't resist.

It's still impossible to figure out how many owls live in the Owl Roost - still too many to get an accurate count.

Whenever someone on Facebook posts a memory of their dad who has passed away, I always feel a little pang for my own dad and little guilty too because I don't do something like that very often. I sometimes would rather forget a lot of dates: April 30th, Father's Day, February 8th.

And most especially February 3rd.  I really hate February 3rd.

I don't really forget them but sometimes it's just easier to remember that they're coming up or realize they are just past.

I woke up this morning (not really this morning - last month to tell the truth) and I was idly thinking that if there had been an internet when I was a kid, I would have been able to search the world for the perfect gift for my dad.

Then I thought, wouldn't it be nice if on my dad's birthday I made a short post in which I revealed that I went shopping online for my dad and found the perfect gift, no expense spared.  The gifting possibilities were endless.

Then I realized I already had the perfect gift.  I had actually gotten it a few years ago, back when I was in England.  A photograph I got my husband to take for me.

So here you go, Dad. I got you an owl.


  1. Hey Nancy. The best gift for Dad was writing this. He would be proud and happy! I know the number of owls with and without cards! Love Dee

    1. Did you count the ones Mom has on her kitchen counter ready to go down and be hung up? Or the four owl tumblers I bought last month that may never get down to the cabin? Just be ready to add them when they do. :-)