When I woke up on January 15th, my intent was to hit the ground running. My plans were to make few phone calls, pay a few bills, then get to work – shedding a tear was not on my agenda, but—it happened. While I was getting dressed, I turned on the television and heard a newscaster read portions of an open letter, that President Elect Barack Obama wrote to his daughters. And, with each phrase the newscaster read, my heart felt like it stopped on every word… and the next thing I knew, a tear fell from my eye, and damn it I was crying. (Uh, it’s not something I do often)
Now, I know this is going to sound crazy, but for a brief second I thought – that letter should’ve been written to me!! Am, I crazy? Perhaps! But, this letter really moved me. And, I started thinking… Barack is coolest dad ever! Because, with all the Presidential shit he has to do, how in the hell does he have time to sit down and write a letter to his daughters?! And, if he ain’t too busy to do it, then why can’t all dads do this?
And, I mean all of them!! I’m talking about the “brutha” on the corner holding that wine bottle, my “main man” struggling up the corporate ladder from the mail room, the broke baby daddy who in fighting with his ex-girl so he can see his kids, and the “bro’ man” who lost his job, struggling to find a way to feed his family. I’m hoping that all men– Jews, Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, heard this prolific letter and after hearing it, made the conscious decision to sit down to write a letter of their own.
I must tell you, as a daughter of a tough Chicago Cop, my dad never wrote me a letter such as this. However, there was this one act of kindness, which let me know how much he truly cared for me. Bringing home ham. Yes! Pork. My dad’s way of showing my sister Neecy and me, that he loved us, was to bring home ham. Whenever my dad was wrong about something, or he felt like he may have yelled a little too much around the house, he would bring home the most amazingly juicy, and thinly sliced pound of ham. He would walk in the door and yell… “Ham sandwiches for EVERYBODY!” It was his way of saying… “Okay, I’m sorry. I might have been a little too hard on you about not washing the dishes.” Or, “I apologize if I yelled too loudly because you came in fifteen minutes past your curfew.” Or, “I simply want the best for you.”
So, when I heard this letter from Barack to his daughters, it was clear to me… Barack’s running for president, i s like my dad running out to South Chicago to pick up thinly sliced ham. And, those ham sandwiches represented Barack’s open letter. And, as I remember it, I must tell you, with every bite of that thinly sliced ham sandwich, I knew my dad loved me.
All children should have that “warm-and-fuzzy-you-can-conquer-the-world-here’s-a ham-sandwich” feeling. So damn it, I’m asking all of you with kids, to sit your asses down and do the work. Write an open letter to your kids. I know, with some of you, it’s hard for you take the time to even sign your name on your kid’s report card. But, this is equally as important, so take the time to do it. No matter where you’re coming from, sit down and tell them what you want for them, and explain in this letter, why you do what you do for them. No matter what it is!
If you’re an alcoholic, but you keep all the “gin and juice” out of their reach, so they don’t end up like you… WRITE THAT LETTER! If you’re that brother who quit his job, because you refuse to give up child support to your baby mama, and you want to explain your side of the story to your kids — WRITE THAT LETTER! If you’re a brotha who goes to work everyday on a job that you hate, and you go because you know it will give your kids a better life, WRITE THAT LETTER! If you’ve set aside your dreams of being a drummer in a rock band, and you now work at Judy’s Check Cashing Place, so you can give your kids a better life,— tell them that…sit down and WRITE THAT LETTER! Hell, if you can’t write or even spell, then find a copy of Barack’s letter rip it out of a paper, and circle the shit you want to say to your kids… and make it your letter! Any kid, lucky enough to get a letter from their parent, is a kid who will know that they are truly loved, because it’s on paper, and it will be something they could hold on to– for life. My ham sandwiches had to be eaten (cause they were good as hell), but I would’ve never chewed up a letter written from my dad. So, sit down and do it!
And, my hope is… that all father’s sit down, and take the time to write an open letter to their children, in hopes of giving them promise, hope for the future and essentially changing their lives.
Stacey McClain is a writer and producer in Los Angeles, and hasn’t had a ham sandwich in years, but remembers them well.