In 5th grade, we had to do periodic book reports. For some people, that might have meant just standing up in front of the class and saying, “I liked the part when.” I don’t recall whether we were required to make our book reports more interesting, or just encouraged, or maybe I was just overeager and had too much time on my hands. But I remember book reports being A Thing.
When I read Black Beauty, my “report” took the form of a board game based on the book. The playing pieces were horses because I had many toy horses lying around. Inexplicably, I incorporated a bottle of “horse perfume” which was really just a giant green bottle with a stopper, and the stopper was sprayed with Lysol so it smelled like a vet’s office. I think it was called Eau de Horse, and there were flies drawn on the label. I have no recollection of how this was a part of the game.
The only other thing I remember is that part of my high-pressure performance was to roll the dice, count one-two-three, and land on a square saying, “You broke your leg. Game over,” and then I pulled out a cap gun and shot the horse figurine.
WHAT WAS THIS GAME ABOUT.
Confession #1: I never finished Black Beauty.
Confession #2: My dad was the mastermind behind this twisted board game. If you know him, then this probably doesn’t seem weird to you. In fact, this might sound strangely familiar to you. Maybe he helped you with a weird board game for a book you secretly never finished reading.
My dad is a quirky guy, who is willing to put himself out there, whether it’s in a skit or a performance or clowning or entertaining or just hamming it up behind the scenes. I admire that self-confidence and commitment.
I might not have inherited that same level of enthusiasm (unfortunately), but I think I did get a little bit of his artistic quirk. While making Black Beauty the Board Game, I showed my mom the label for the Eau de Horse, and her response was, “You can’t let Dad do the whole report for you.” I remember this very clearly because I was pretty much bursting with pride that she thought that Dad had created the label that I had written and illustrated all by myself! Clearly, if she mistook it for his work, it was amazing.
I learned two things from this experience:
1. Book reports are not always about the books; and
2. If I’m lucky, people will compare me to my dad and see the ways that I am like him.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad! Thanks for setting me on the right path early. I hope I am making you proud!