On the Eleventh Day of Christmas, my God gave to me…
eleven pipers piping.
Today I am going to honor the Divine Masculine by recognizing someone who has been my own personal god for over fifty years…
my father, James Hugh Beach, Senior.
Dad was a pipe smoker.
I cannot remember a time when my father didn’t have his pipe nearby, and oftentimes in his mouth. It seems that no matter where we were and what we were doing, Dad would always have his latest favorite with him, either holding it in his hand, or puffing contentedly away.
I am reminded of a scene from The Parent Trap – the original 1961 version with Hayley Mills playing identical twins Susan Evers and Sharon McKendrick, Brian Keith as as the father, and Maureen O’Hara as the mother. But it is a scene with Charles Ruggles as the grandfather that I fondly recall:
Charles McKendrick: [Susan starts sniffing the coat he is wearing] My dear, what are you doing?
Susan Evers: Making a memory.
Charles McKendrick: Making a memory?
Susan Evers: All my life, when I’m quite grown-up I will always remember my grandfather and how he smelled of
[smells his jacket again]
Susan Evers: tobacco and peppermint.
Charles McKendrick: Smelled of tobacco and peppermint.
Charles McKendrick: Well, I’ll tell you what. I take the peppermint for my indigestion and as for the tobacco
Charles McKendrick: to make your grandmother mad.
That’s the memory that I have of my father…the way he smelled of pipe tobacco. I can remember being a little tot, climbing into my daddy’s lap and laying my head on his chest, and inhaling the sweet scent of tobacco that always seemed to adhere to his clothes.
I’m not sure he did it to make Mom mad…she seemed to enjoy the scent as much as I did…and for a short time Mom even smoked a pipe herself. I can remember her and my father lighting up together on occasion.
Although he sometimes did buy a custom blend from the tobacco store, Dad’s usual brand was Kentucky Club, which he would purchase in the big round tins. Once the tin was empty, it was used to store pennies. I think my parents amassed a small fortune of pennies in those tobacco tins, some of which still sit on the shelf of a closet in the family home.
But for daily use, my father kept a couple of handfuls of tobacco in a tobacco pouch. I remember giving him one for Christmas as a kid…a brown leather roll-up one that cost me a couple of weeks of allowance. That was the type he always used – the roll-ups. Dad didn’t care much for the zipper pouches. He used that pouch for many years, carrying it in the breast pocket of his coat along with his pipe. I would beam with pride whenever he pulled it out.
My father died suddenly of a massive heart attack in October of 2000. I was already a forty-something year old adult, living and working in another city. I had not even seen my father for over a year when he passed on. I flew home to join the family in mourning his death. My father was laid out in the casket wearing his favorite jacket, with a pipe and a full pouch of tobacco in the breast pocket. I figured wherever he was going, Dad would want to be able to enjoy a puff or two.
After the visitation, I went back to the house and into my parents’ bedroom. Pulling open one of the dresser drawers, I lifted out one of my father’s sweaters and sniffed it.
The memory was still there.