Dad knew the drill

I saw my Dad in the main character, the one played by Dana Andrews, in the movie “The Best Years of Our Lives.” Like him, my dad returned from hero status in World War II to slim job opportunities.
As such, there wasn’t much money around when we were kids. We didn’t know that though. Truth is, we thought we had it made. Especially at Christmas. There was always plenty of good food, plenty of presents, and a finely decorated tree.
It wasn’t until I was a grown man that I learned of Dad’s annual Christmas tree routine.
While trees were about three bucks apiece at various tree “lots” around town, even that was a little rich for Dad’s wallet. So he’d wait until Christmas Eve when they were practically giving them away at a dollar each. Of course, the only trees left by then were of the Charlie Brown variety, i.e. the ones nobody wanted.
Dad would scrounge around for three horrible trees and offer the guy a dollar for all three, an offer that was never turned down. Then he’d bring them home and with a drill and some glue combine all three pitiful trees into one marvelous one.
It sounds like a painstaking task but Mom said Dad never complained. He actually seemed to enjoy it.
That someone always seemed to drop off a gallon of homemade wine helped, Mom said.
I told this story to my newspaper colleague and fellow columnist Jack Smiles one time and he said, “Oh, your Dad was a driller and filler.”
I didn’t know if that was an actual term for guys like my Dad or if Jack made it up on the spot and I never asked. But I like it.
As a kid I always felt my Dad could fix anything. His “drilling and filling” attitude applied to more things than Christmas trees.

Ed Ackerman