Father’s Day, a commercial holiday if ever there was one, tends to be associated with family harmony. Isn’t dad just the best!
But dads are real people with real emotions. Sometimes, when a dad has a lovely tranquil day planned, something spoils it, and then you better look out.
Thornton Utz’s July 22, 1961 cover, “Unwelcome Pool Guests,” (not intended as a satire on Father’s Day, by the way) perfectly conveys this kind of moment.
Utz, a master of family drama, uses the man’s facial expression to convey the general feeling of the scene we’re witnessing–annoyance. What was supposed to be a relaxing day lounging outside has quickly turned to a family pool party fiasco.
Next to the man, the artist illustrated the hallmarks of a day spent relaxing. We see a tuned radio, morning slippers, coffee cup and saucer, breakfast tray (complete with grapefruit half), lit cigarette, newspapers, suntan oil lamp; lotion, tanning eye covers, sunglasses, and most importantly, the man’s set-aside unstrapped watch. He’s shirtless, unadorned, and hoisting his feet upon an ottoman as he sinks into the sling of a pool chair.
The man has nowhere to be on such a warm and sunny weekend. It is early morning, the sun hasn’t even risen over the roofline of the house enough to warm the pool naturally. Our homeowner has taken his breakfast outside by the pool to read the Saturday paper. There’s not a single ripple on the reflective water.
This pool takes up the majority of the illustration’s canvas for a symbolic reason. The barrier of crystal stillness is all that separates the homeowner from the ensuing chaos of splashing and yelling approaching from the parked car at the far edge of the illustration’s frame.
His clean and tidy yard, his happy, tranquil world, is about to become quite the mess. A man hollers from the car, barely restraining two dogs. Eight children run, if you count the leg still in the car, and adults slowly clamor out of the vehicle.
Whether these arriving individuals are extended family, friends, or even just local neighbors, everyone looks ready to have a good time–except the pool’s owner. But the arriving guests are clearly close enough in their relationship to the pool-lounger to feel that their presence could never be a bother.
While family and family-centered activities are wonderful memory-crafting events, sometimes dads just want to relax and have some much-relished alone time. So this Father’s Day, get the father figure in your life a card and a gift, and maybe a little time off. Remember that a little relaxation might just be the most appreciated gift of all.
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