What’s the dearest gift a #writing #Parent can give a #Daughter? Time.

 

Blondie zips her Mega Man sweatshirt and pulls its puffy hood up over her long, tangled hair. It’s a Friday night. Daddy’s home. Biff and Bash are racing each other to see who’s going to need stitches first. I ain’t stickin’ around for that.

I’m going to take my daughter out for her birthday.

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What else does a writer give her daughter for her birthday? Her own creative writing handbook, of course!

When writing grew in its priority, it swelled most in my daughter’s space. I’d make her go play on her own when the boys napped, always busy with “school stuff.” She’d even “teach” on a toy computer next to me, just to be close.

I see her now, on the verge of 8, and pray I haven’t set the “Cats in the Cradle” prophecy in motion:

As a parent working from home, it’s already a challenge finding those hours when I can teach kid-free, let alone grade papers and handle student questions. Plus, there’s that awful tradition of the American Summer Vacation. What kind of society demands parents handle their own kids all day for three months in a row? Outrageous!

Blondie’s equally annoyed. “I wish school was all year,” she says in the car, half-reading, half-looking out the window. “I never get to see anyone in summer.”

I wince at this truth. Planning play-dates with kids across three different towns sucks. Other parents put their kids in half a dozen leagues and classes every summer. We can’t  afford a birthday party for Blondie, let alone soccer club. “At least you can attend summer school in the morning like your brothers this year, and make some new friends.” I silently thank God yet again that the school administration allowed Blondie to sign up for their free summer program even though she’s enrolled elsewhere for the regular school year. With all these kids on our street, she’s bound to connect with somebody, and then all the cross-county play-dating could stop. What a time-saver!

Blondie winces at this truth. “I guess.”

Wisconsin doesn’t feel like stepping out tonight. Thick grey clouds block any sign of sunlight. The rain is cold, but not hard enough to clean my windshield of some presents dropped by the robins. “You’ll have lots of time to work on your stories this summer, too. And your inventions.” Every story Blondie has written over her 2nd grade year is now piled on my desk. I want to keep them somewhere special. I want to show her in ten years’ time how she loved writing about puppies and dragons going on adventures despite family funerals involving cancer. I want to show her how smart she was with punctuation and grammar at such a young age, how her voice was already taking shape, even then.

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For now, I get a shrug. “Can you tell me where we’re going now?”

“Nope.” When I told Blondie we couldn’t afford a party…when those big blue-grey eyes looked down, and her big-girl nod of, That’s okay, Mom, like all the other That’s okay’s when I needed to teach, to write…for once, I just wanted to say:

No, that’s not okay, Kiddo. You and I are gonna have some fun together. No boys, no work. We’re gonna go to a party place with lots of music and lights, and a giant disco ball just like you wanted. We’ll have pizza and roller skate and fall on our butts and laugh. For one night, I want you to be the center of my world.

I wanted to tell her all these things, but Bo and I decided it would be better as a surprise. The girl never expects me to be the one to take her anywhere. I’m hoarding my time like coins in an R2-D2 piggy bank: ten minutes reading here, half an hour editing there. A free hour is like finding a soggy ten on the sidewalk. Two hours? A twenty wedged in a park bench.

But when I got that big-girl nod, I locked myself in my bedroom and pulled the R2-D2 piggy bank out of the closet. The minutes jingled like so many pennies scrimped and pinched from across the years. My daughter’s years.

That’s okay, Mom.

I bring the hammer down.

~*~

“We’re here!” I turn off the engine. Skate World flashes on and off in bright yellow. Clusters of families and teens already line up to enter. “This is gonna be so much fun!” I unbuckle my belt and turn around, ready to take her hand and step out and under disco lights.

Her belt is not unbuckled.

Blondie’s eyes dart between the sign and people, never me. “Oh.” Pause. “I didn’t know we were coming here.”

“Surprise!” The bubbles grow in my voice to counter the confusion rooting within. “I know you had so much fun here last year with your friends, I thought this year we could come together, just you and me. No brothers or anything.” I grin.

She does not. “Oh.” Pause. “Are you skating, too?”

“Of course! I’m gonna fall on my butt a lot, but it’ll be fun!” My voice keeps sliding down exclamation marks. I don’t know how many more are left before the bottom.

“But,” Blondie fidgets with her belt—not the buckle, “that’s just a friend place.”

“I see other kids going in with their moms and dads. We can too!”

“But.” This “but” shakes in the air, left out in the cold, rainy space, “but someone bad might be in there.”

I have no exclamation points to counter this. “Someone bad? Kiddo, what are you talking about? It’s just all kids skating and falling on their butts, just like us.”

“But, but, but—”

“But WHAT?” I snap.

Now, she looks at me. Her tears sparkle beneath the Skate World light. “What if someone laughs at me?” Her mouth trembles, and she sobs with such a fear that I am dumbstruck. “Please don’t be mad!”

She must see my face and I can’t lie: part of me is.

I smashed that bank. I brought all those coins and ripped bills of time to exchange for some memories, dammit. I didn’t give up an entire evening of work time to drive through four towns to pull into a parking lot only to have a sobbing child refuse to leave the car over made-up situations about a place she’s only visited once before in her life.

I. I. I.

I take one last look at the flashing lights and laughing kids. Start the engine. Turn around.

“That’s okay, Blondie.”

~*~

Mullen’s is an ice cream parlor on the edge of Watertown’s main drag. I went here with my grandparents after walking the river’s boardwalk to feed ducks. My friends and I often walked here on weekends at the boarding school, eager to trade some cafeteria wages for fried cheese curds and a sundae.

Tonight, it’s just Blondie and me.

Blondie pokes a pink finger through a hole in the brick wall. “Woooow, this place is oooold.” I glare right back at the old biddy with her tidy glass of ice water tisking Blondie’s impertinence and let the waitress show us all the available flavors. Blondie picks two scoops of vanilla with lots of sprinkles, and leads me to the red vinyl seat by the window so she can watch the cars rush by in the rain.

I tell her stories of running through the downpours back to school to make curfew, of the loud screen door always slamming on my little fingers when my own grandmother would get me a treat after an eternal visit to the fabric store. Blondie listens, eats. Smiles.

No disco ball could possibly shine brighter.

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39 thoughts on “What’s the dearest gift a #writing #Parent can give a #Daughter? Time.

  1. What a cool relationship you have with your daughter …
    Re: Kids and writing. During a recent continental flight I sat next to a tiny girl (about 4 yrs old) who scribbled with fierce concentration in her notebook – not words as such – they were scribbles and signs neatly arranged in lines. ‘Wow,’ I said, ‘you do love writing.’ She glowed at me with pleasure. Someone had understood her passion.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh that is cool! I know I loved making picture books to tell stories before I knew how to make letters. Blondie wasn’t keen on creativity at all until kindergarten. Now I keep testing her reading interests to see what will influence her stories: Jules Verne’s Nautilus piloted by puppies? Sure! 🙂
      Thanks for reading. x

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the audio. I’m dedicating this number, named ‘Guitar Jam’ on Soundcloud
    – but its new name is on Reverbnation, the new names is ‘Bread & Jam’ – to Blondie. Tell her I’ve never dedicated my music to anyone else before. I might, might not miss your post next week as I’m off travelling. If I do miss it I’ll catch up later. Also, I’ve enabled the download on Soundcloud if Blondie wants to download her song. https://soundcloud.com/zoolon/guitar-jam I hope she likes it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Lovely, I knew you’d find the thing that would work. Lucky Blondie, and lucky you to have such wonderful people in your lives. It’s the quality of your time together that counts.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. ❤️A heart-warming post that made me both chuckle and groan.
    I am reminded of something that happened a while ago, when my niece was 7 years old. I used to plot and plan “dates” for us, and there was one that was completely hijacked by jealous relatives and head-scratching encounters with strangers. Or, rather, I thought of it that way because my plans seemed to have gone awry. My niece didn’t experience it that way, and, periodically, over the years (she’s 22, now) she’ll say “Remember that day when….” Who knew that would be the date to hold a special place in her heart?
    I’m glad you and Blondie celebrated her birthday, just the two of you “having fun together, no boys , no work”!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much! It was not what I expected, no, but what matters is *her* joy more than anything, just like your niece. Oddly enough, I had a similar experience as yours with my own mother. She wanted us to cook together her first Mother’s Day back in Wisconsin at her new house. None of her kitchen gear had been unpacked, so she spent most of the morning hissing and cussing up a storm over “Where’s X? Why’d they pack Y there? I can’t find ANYthing.” She barely said two words to me the whole morning, and any offer to help was returned with glares. Years later, she recalls how wonderful it was to cook together that day.
      Welp, that’s not how *I* remember it, but if that’s how Mom wants to remember it, then that’s fine by me. 🙂

      Like

  5. It’s called the generation gap for a reason! But you had the grace to take a deep breath and retrieve the situation:)). Go you! And thank you for sharing the lovely pic of you two together, you both look lovely…x

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a beautiful post and the very best wishes to Blondie. Just a lovely post my lady truly. Glittering as that ball. Sorry to be late to the party. I never got a notification. then I minded. Thursday is past, where is Jean….

    Liked by 1 person

  7. As a mom of 2 (now-grown) daughters, I had lots of relatable emotions in this story. I love that the evening ended happy. One day Blondie will be thrilled to be handed a big folder of her earliest writings. Now that’s a gift to be treasured! Happy Belated Birthday, Blondie! Great photo of you two, Jean:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Somewhere I have my own gathering of childhood stories. I enjoyed mimicking what I heard, apparently. For instance: one streak of stories all end with the same line: “But that’s another story.”
      Can you guess I watched THE NEVERENDING STORY at that age? 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Aw, Jean, you’re a great mama, do you know that? The craziness is hard to slog through, but your kids are going to grow up remembering these special times, even if they’re not what you’d planned. This incident sounds a LOT like what our eldest would do btw. She’s my over-thinker, and sometimes I just don’t know where she’s coming from. Way to take a situation that could have been frustrating and make it into something you both could enjoy. And Mullen’s! What a great choice, always! Someone had told me that it closed down (NOOOOOOO!) – I’m so pleased to see it was a false report! Sending hugs your way!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. “Ten minutes reading here, half an hour editing there. A free hour is like finding a soggy ten on the sidewalk.” – feels like I have written that. I only have one child who is homeschooled after he was diagnosed with profound dyslexia. Being a parent, a good parent requires all my energy to be honest and most days I usually tell the Little M. “I’m only a human and I’m trying my best.”
    We all are trying our best and you are doing a fantastic job.

    Like

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