Some days are better than others; days like this past Friday.
She was all agog at the prospect of the afternoon with me. It would be just the two of us. Her brother would be at a friend's after school and her sister and mother would be at a Girl Scout party. Five minus three leaves two - she and me. Her nickname since birth has been sunshine.
Her mom, my wife, met me at the predetermined drop-off at 12:45pm. Little miss sunshine got into my '97 black Dodge Stratus and we drove away.
Do you have any good music in here?
I've got some John Denver. How's that?
Uh, let's listen to the radio. Why don't we eat at Noodles?
Excellent choice, my dear.
As we made our way across the parking lot to the restaurant, she took my hand.
We both ordered mac-n-cheese and used chopsticks to stir sugar in our iced tea and sat across from each other in a booth and talked like fathers and daughters should. The conversation was filling; we do not live by mac-n-cheese alone.
Where to from here, Dad?
Well, you really need a couple of new shirts. How about some shopping?
Excellent suggestion, old boy.
The next thing I know I'm sitting outside the dressing room in Old Navy, waiting for the sun to shine. Several very young Old Navy females smiled at me; however, these were not God, what a man! smiles but rather Oh, how sweet! giggles. I returned the smiles, wondering if I had mac-n-cheese in my beard.
I'm not sure about all the deep-down-every-girl-is-a-princess emphasis these days. I'm just not sure. That's o.k. But I can tell you this. Each time my daughter came out of that dressing room, she spun, twirled, curtsied, and danced before me. Someone might say that's what girls do when they're trying on new clothes at Old Navy. Bullshit. Everything, and I mean everything, from that store looks like a t-shirt and t-shirts don't elicit spinning. No, the axis she twirled upon was, well, me - the Dad. In those dressing room moments, there was no other female on earth except for her; even the young Old Navies had faded. She had my undivided attention. And sunshine beamed.
Nothing wow-ed us, so I suggested a couple of other stores. As we left the Navy, she took my hand. We were searching for something just right; mostly what we found was too small, too big, too long, dear-Lord-too-short, too little-girly, too collegiate, too...it was Goldilocks revisited, allowing the old bear to tag along.
I could conclude this story in a very postmodern, angst-filled way, with Goldilocks never finding the just right; something like: The little girl realized that life is not a fairy tale, you don't seek and find. No, the harsh fluorescent mall lighting revealed it's the journey that matters and being in the moment and you're on your own, even beside the ones you love. Blah, blah...blah, blah. Dear God help us all. But I cannot conclude in such a fashion for that's not how this story ends.
We walked, hand-in-hand, through the perfumed entrance to Macy's, which is probably owned by Old Navy or vice versa. And there, in the Girls 7-16 section, they were. A white top with a scalloped (didn't know I could use fashion words like that, did ya?) neck with embroidered flowers at the top and a pair of lightly faded blue jean shorts that came to the knees. Classic hippie sans the angst. She tried them on. Just right. Goldilocks and the old bear swiped the debit card and walked back through the gauntlet of white-jacketed-fragrance gals misting Clinique's Happy in the air. I thought what the hell, might as well smell like we feel. It was too hot for soup and we didn't want to wait for it to cool, so a Sonic blizzard with M&Ms capped her afternoon happily ever after. Mine too.
I could further conclude this story by saying that I arrange dad-daughter afternoons like this frequently. But I cannot. I want to try and do better at this while there's still time. I can say two things though. First of all, thank you to the Grace that keeps this world for a golden afternoon. Some days are better than others. And last, a word to all the dads out there who don't read blogs but your wives do; in the voice of that Old Navy looking singer -
On behalf of every man
Looking out for every girl
You are the god and the weight of her world
So fathers be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do...