I was a Daddy’s Girl when I was little. Okay, I was a Daddy’s Girl until our first child was born. He took my place as the apple of my dad’s eye. And then that place grew with the additions of our second son and my niece. And, I’m okay with that. But, as a Daddy’s Girl, I have some very fond memories of a childhood with my dad.
There was a pond that was our spot. I don’t remember there ever being anyone else there, other than the huge bullfrogs that scared me every time they jumped into the water. Their throaty sounds gave me goose bumps because I knew they were near me, but I did not want to see them. God forbid, one would have touched me. But, I managed to overcome my fear of all of those frogs and just enjoy fishing with my dad. I didn’t touch the worms, either, which was probably hell on Dad because he’d have to bait my hook and make sure I wasn’t about to hook him when I cast in my line. Oh, and I didn’t touch the fish that I caught, either; so, Dad probably spent 90% of his time dealing with me and 10% of his time fishing himself. I remember catching largemouth bass and pumpkinseeds and bluegills. I remember putting the “punkies” in the ground and lighting them to keep the bugs away. I remember my dad having a lit cigar to keep the bugs away, but he never really seemed to smoke it; he just let it smolder. I don’t remember what we talked about. I just remember being with him and loving every second… well, except for the frogs.
My dad owned and operated a feed mill less than two minutes from my childhood home for years. He grew up working there, while attending school and then college, and he bought it after earning a teaching degree that he never put to use in the classroom but that helped him to be a more knowledgeable and informed school board member. I grew up at that mill, too, but in a different way. I swept the dust-covered floors and arranged dog biscuits and watched the grain go up the elevators and then down the chutes into the huge bags. I stopped in front of his custom horse sweet feed and breathed in the smells of molasses and oats deeply every time I walked past. I climbed to the top of the stacks of bags and pretended I ruled the world. My favorite place to be, though, was behind the counter in the office. He had a horribly uncomfortable stool, but I thought its seat resembled a saddle, and I loved to sit on it and watch him work. As I got older, I was allowed to work the cash register, with his guidance. It’s funny that I don’t remember being afraid of the mice that I knew were there but never really saw, especially considering my frog phobia. It was my dad’s place, so I wanted to be there with him. I learned a lot about the value of your word and hard work and a work ethic in that dusty old place. And now, my boys are making a lot of the same memories with their dad, since we purchased the mill and my husband became the sole owner-operator three years ago. It still catches me off guard to see my husband behind the counter and not my dad when I walk in the office.
I have such fond memories of playing badminton and softball in our backyard. It seems like all of those memories involve my mom standing at the kitchen window getting supper dishes cleaned up, too. She never really got into those outdoor athletic moments with us. Dad and I could occupy ourselves with an especially intense badminton match for hours. I would be barefoot, and he would sometimes still be in his work boots if we were having a late supper, and we’d start playing. The trash talk was epic: he usually focused on how bad my serves were and how green my feet were, and I usually focused on how slow he was and how I had to give him a handicap for being left handed. On nights when we chose softball instead of badminton, he would challenge my arm and my catching ability to the nth degree, and I can still picture the look of amazement he would get when I caught a ball he never thought I’d be able to grab. I can remember knocking a few balls into the neighbors’ yards that sparked that same look, too. (Don’t start getting all excited about what an athletic wonder I am. I think these memories are mostly from ages 6-10.)
High School Football Games
My all-time favorite childhood memories of being with my dad happened under the Friday night lights. I remember getting a new purple-and-white sweatshirt and the latest purple wooly blankets and new bleacher cushions that actually had some cushion in them and new purple-and-white hair ribbons at the beginning of each season. We parked his truck in a prime parking spot near the field but in a place suited for a quick exit after the final buzzer, went for Friday dinner at our favorite local family restaurant with my Mom and brother, and then they dropped us off at the field for “our game.” We had season tickets to the high school games because my dad was a school board member (that was the one and only perk of losing him to so many meetings each month). We sat with my grandparents and the coaches’ wives and former coaches and teaching legends, and I cheered with the best of them. I still remember that adrenaline rush from the marching band songs (to this day, that is why “Louie, Louie” is my favorite song) and how loudly one of my grandmother’s best friends was able to boo. He and I would dance and sing along with the band and complain about poor officiating and cheap shots by the opponents. The players were mostly older boys from our neighborhood and the surrounding neighborhoods, and I suppose I should have viewed them as local celebrities for as much as I supported them every Friday night, but I looked up to my dad more than I did any of them. There were some exciting play-off seasons during my younger years, and all I would have to do was look at my dad after the latest win to know that we would be buying pep bus tickets and traveling far and wide to follow “our team.” Everyone else in town, it seemed, did too. Trips to the Pittsburgh and Erie areas to sit in freezing cold weather and cheer even more loudly than normal to warm ourselves were a given in our eyes; I think my mom sometimes wished we would just stay home, but as far as I know, she never tried to thwart our football plans. I was so fortunate to give a speech on that football field when I graduated from high school, and I started by pointing to “our seats” and talking about our purple-and-white-filled autumn nights in that stadium. The school and team colors and field may be gone now, but I never will forget the time we spent together, being goofy in all of our fandom.
So, I was hoping after seeing that I gravitated toward my dad, and my brother gravitated toward my mom, that I would have a Mama’s Boy. The odds seemed pretty good when we were blessed with two boys; surely, the numbers were in my favor. No such luck. The five year old always wants my mom, and the two year old always wants my husband or my dad. I’m left out in the cold. So, now I don’t feel so bad about not having a daughter and my husband missing out on having his own Daddy’s Girl. He’s got two boys who want to work at his feed mill and who worship his tools and his tractor nearly as much as they worship him. Oh well, I’ll get my dad back from these little munchkins some day. They can’t ALWAYS be cuter than I am. What the Hell?
After reading this, I realize that it’s no wonder I’ve never been into princesses and dance class and pink. Dad and I didn’t have time for that stuff.