Jasper the Fly: A Father’s Legacy
Jasper the Fly: A Father’s Legacy
June 21st is Father’s Day. This is a day we set aside to love and honour those wonderful fathers that helped shape our lives. It was my father’s great capacity for story telling that provided ground work for the person I am today.
I was born in Montreal but as a four year old my family decided to move to California. Having the time but not much money, the trip was a family adventure. Three kids and two adults travelling across country staying in road side motels or camping provided up close and personal experiences with the sights and people across the country.
I grew up at a time when electronics were not yet common place, and in fact, TV was not even a standard home item. The long days in the car, however, were not a challenge as my mother was always keeping us busy playing games such as “I Spy with My Little Eye”, finding coloured license plates or singing songs. My Dad would entertain us with the adventures of Jasper the Fly. These were tales of a fly’s adventure but as I grew older I would often find myself wondering what would Jasper do in this situation? My Dad was clever. Every story he told about Jasper had a lesson embedded within the tale. I did not recognize many of those lessons at the time, but they have stayed with me and my siblings to this day. Today, many parents cannot imagine taking a cross trip by car without an ipad or tablet loaded with entertainment for their young children and it often makes me wonder what my life would be like without those special family times.
I believe it was through the adventures of Jasper that my love of travel and experience different cultures was born. The trip from Montreal to our new home was just the first of many across the country car trips. Summer vacations while I was growing up always meant three kids crammed in the back seat with the dog and long car rides. I looked forward to these trips and my favourite part was always the exploits of Jasper the Fly. Now Jasper was no ordinary fly! He travelled the world and knew things about people and cultures from all over.
I sometimes shutter at the thought of a fly teaching me life lessons, but I think my Dad picked a fly to share his stories because no matter where we went, we would always see a fly. Sometimes Jasper flew in the car window, or met us in a picnic area, but wherever we went there was always a Jasper and a story. Today when I see a fly I am often just annoyed by their presence but I am also reminded of one of Jasper’s lessons.
Travel Light: Jasper travelled light. He carried an extra set of wings with him but that was all. He used to tell us not to take along unnecessary items like our favourite blanket or toy. Jasper would say,”Carrying along the old and comfortable might keep us from discovering something new and more exciting”.
Jasper taught me to eat new foods. My Dad used to say to me when I was hesitating to trying something new, “Be like Jasper take a little bit of everything. You never know what savoury flavours might explode on your tongue, and if you want to travel the world, you need to be like Jasper and always try a little bit.”
Different people are the same:
Stories that have always stuck with me were about Jasper’s experiences living among the poor migrate workers in the San Joaquin Valley of California and of the black people in south, whose ancestors had been slaves. Jasper would tell us that laughter and tears were universal and love could break down prejudices and barriers. Food, water and shelter were basic needs for all humans. Jasper deplored segregation for any reason. Jasper would land on the skin of humans of all colour and economic status because he would say, “The feel of his little feet on their skin was a kind of acknowledgment, they were worth his touch and it let them know they were alive.” He would tell us, “A nod of the head, eye contact or a simple hello provides a person with acknowledgement, recognition and value.” Most of the time, we will never know what that might mean to someone.
To my father and all the fathers around the world that endow their children with love, tolerance, understanding, kindness and a sense of adventure, we love you. The world is a better place because of you. Happy Father’s Day!
Written by: Joan Niemeier