As I walked this morning, on this Father’s Day, it was easy to reminisce about the sweet moments I had with my dad, when I was a little girl. As the song goes, I was “the Easter bunny, the star on the tree,” to him. To say it simply, he adored me. I remember being a little frightened of my dad, because he did have a temper, but I can recall only 1 actual spanking, and that was probably because I had been caught in a lie or some other unacceptable act of disobedience. My dad was not a singer, but most of my memories are tied to songs. Often, we would walk together to the corner grocery or the drug store up the street. He’d hold my hand, and he’d start in with an old Army marching song. “Sound off,” he’d call, as our strides fell together, I’d echo, “Sound off.” Then it would be “I had a good home but I left, left, left right left. Sound off 1 2. 3 4!” It’s not the same when you try to type it, but you get the idea.
I can never hear the song, “Me and My Shadow” without getting a little weepy. Sometimes, when we’d walk together, he’d sing it, because he felt like I was his little shadow. It’s a sad song, but for me, it holds tender memories. “And when it’s 12:00, we climb the stair, we never knock, for nobody’s there. Just me and my shadow, strolling down the avenue.” It was our special time together, walking to the store to get a loaf of bread or a bottle of cough medicine, but there was usually a candy bar in it for me as well. Walking to the UDF, known as United Dairy Farmers back in those days, meant one of those giant milk shakes they made in the blender right before your eyes.
My dad was a fisherman, so just before a fishing trip, he’d take me with him to the local park, where in the dark of night, armed with flashlights, we’d secretly dig up nightcrawleres. Ever the prissy little girl, I wore finger gloves to help him with this task, but I did it, just for the excitement of the adventure.
My dad was a gardener, and on Sunday afternoons, he’d set me up on the stone garden wall, where I could watch him, and as the family story goes, sneak a sip out of his bottle of beer. One afternoon, I drained the bottle and then declared , “Daddy, you’re drunk.”
As I grew into a young teen, he taught me how to ride a bike, to hit a wiffle ball and to shoot baskets into the hoop on our garage. He taught me how to play ping pong, but then I began to lose my vision, while at the same time, beginning my passion for dance. Daddy suffered through a lot of dance recitals, but he eagerly constructed a ballet bar for me in the basement and hung a wall mirror. I had my own dance studio down there. When he was working a day shift for a laundry company, he would pick me up after school in the laundry truck he was driving, and I have this glorious memory of getting to ride shotgun, sitting on a bag of laundry. Sometimes he’d pick me up from school with the dogs in the back seat, hanging their beautiful Dalmatian heads out the window with tails whacking the front seat in happy greeting. My dad was the one who instilled my love of dogs.
Do you hear that song? “You’re sugar, you’re spice. You’re everything nice. And you’re Daddy’s little girl.”