Her name was supposed to be Michael.
She did not turn out be the boy that her parents desired, but she happily played the part on weekends. When her dad was home, she shadowed him like an only son. She was always a willing helper, although she tended to get in the way, asking endless questions. He loved her enough to tolerate the freckle-faced distraction that she was.
The townhouse seemed hollow without its normal Saturday chaos. Most everyone had something to do; that is, except for her—and by default—her dad. Like most Saturday nights, her mom was off playing swing saxophone for a sea of gray hair—in the days before swing was cool again. Both older sisters were gallivanting with friends. In her boredom, she laid on the hideous green carpet playing with a naked Barbie, using an empty shoe box as a car. Her dad stuck his head into the room, “Put on something nice…we’re going out!”
Squealing, she catapulted from the floor to her closet door. Agony ensued over what she should wear. She decided on her frilliest yellow dress and white patent leather shoes. It was her favorite; she wore it for her first grade portrait. She loved the way the skirt flared when she spun, which she did almost constantly. While attempting to wash off her Kool-Aid mustache, her dad boomed up the stairwell, “Are you ready, Kiddo?”
“Coming!” While dancing down the steps, her skirt flailed in the breeze. “So…where we goin’, Daddy?”
“Well, I was thinking about taking you on a proper date, young lady. How about dinner and a movie?”
Unable to suppress her smile, her already sunburnt cheeks felt warmer. “Okey-dokey.”
They walked out into the sultry evening air, and he opened the passenger door for her. “You look very pretty tonight, Sweetie.”
“Thanks, Daddy…” she was utterly smitten. He went around to the driver’s seat, plunged the key into the ignition, and gave her a huge grin. “Here we go!”
She bubbled with excitement. They drove down Main Street, settling on the ‘four star’ Ponderosa buffet. She made a salad as big as her daddy’s, and ordered her steak medium rare—just like his. Stuffing themselves amply with dessert too, with bloated bellies they moseyed back to the car. On their way to the movie theater, a sleepy hush encompassed the cabin.
“Whatcha’ thinking, Babe?” His deep voice blighted the silence.
She almost didn’t say. “Daddy? Do you still wish that I would’ve been a boy?”
“Oh, Babe, no way…you are perfect being you. God gave me what I really wanted—a little helper—someone to enjoy all my projects with. You get dirty in the garden with me, you hand me my tools when I need them…but you still know how to play like a little girl. Just like how you dressed up tonight in your pretty yellow dress…I love that. I know how to be a daddy to little girls.”
He was right. He had lots of practice—he was a good daddy. His answer satisfied her immensely, so she perked up and bounced to the next subject, “What movie are we gonna see?”
He smiled, “I’d like to see 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', if that’s okay with you?”
Certainly, she had been to see a movie on the big screen before that night, but not a single one that she could later recall. With him holding her hand, they strolled up to the ticket window. She had never felt so special. Even though they were still full from dinner, he bought popcorn and Cokes, “Because you just have to get popcorn and Cokes at the movies…” He was right about that, too.
During the movie, he held her small hand; a tiny replica of her mother’s. When she flinched as the villains faces melted off at the climax, he chuckled and squeezed her hand tighter.
On the ride home, she pelted him with questions about the movie. He patiently explained what the Ark of the Covenant was, and what it held.
“Can we go see it?”
“No, Babe…it’s never been found.”
“Oh. Then how do you know it’s real?”
He pondered this a moment, “Well, I just do.”
She was satisfied with that.
That summer night he set the standard of what every man would have to live up to. Her daddy was the perfect first date for his little girl.
Even though her name was supposed to be Michael.
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