When I was a little girl I used to love to hang out with my father…it was all part of my perfecting (and loving) the role of “daddy’s little girl”. Sometimes it would be an adventure as simple as going to the supermarket which not only provided time alone with him, but also provided the perfect opportunity to embrace our shared sweet tooth by throwing all sorts of stuff in the cart that my mother wouldn’t necessarily object to, but might not think to add. We also went to Celtics games (back in the day when they were winning championships year after year after year) where he would first confirm that I knew who the starting line-up was going to be (I always knew!) and then go on to enjoy a minimum of two Sports Bar ice creams: the latter based on the belief that if my mother didn’t see him eat something, it didn’t count. With his impressive education and intellect there was something endearing about his (feigned) naiveté surrounding his dietary choices in the absence of someone telling him not to eat a particular item. I never outed him to my mother: It was a daddy/daughter thing, of which we had many.
One of his favorite things to do while marketing was to give into his penchant for cookies by diving into a box and enjoying at least a third of them before we even approached the cash register. He could (and would) happily down several Keebler Fudge Crème Chocolate Cookies (think round Vienna’s but everything is chocolate) while perusing the aisles and well before we reached the dairy aisle. Despite my vocal protestations and pleas that he “stop embarrassing me!!!” it is a memory which I hold dearer than one would think.
As he got older, and was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, he was forced to find a new cookie, which his grandchildren, to this day, refer to as “Poppy Cookies” (yeah, he indulged in them that much) (the cookies that is). Initially deemed a poor relation of the deliciousness of the Keeblers, he began to keep these on hand (and discovered that putting them in the freezer made them even tastier) and believed that their slightly lower calorie- and sugar-count somehow made it okay to eat many at a time. (This might be a good time to remind you that he was a very highly educated, intelligent man…) Oh, memories of childhood.
This morning as I was making my way through the parking lot into the market to do my weekly food shopping ($299.00 and I am quite sure I will need to do a fill-in mid-week) I was behind a father and daughter, hand in hand, sharing a chuckle on their way into the store. As happens with these things, we were alongside one another throughout my shopping. Watching them, I found myself feeling the nostalgia welling up as they lovingly interacted with one another and the father, with little more than a small smile, allowed several items (which I would venture to guess were not on the list from mom) to be thrown into the cart. Anything for his little girl.
In the checkout line, I was, again, directly behind them. I did not tell them (and they were totally unaware) that I had been observing them for the past forty-five minutes, nor did I mention all the thoughts that ran through my head as I did so. (Which might explain why I forgot to buy hamburger meat to go with the hamburger buns?) The dad, while physically not even remotely resemblant of my father, emitted an unquestionably loving vibe which felt crazily familiar to me. The girl, who was probably about Jessie’s age, clearly adored her dad as was evidenced by the smiles they were sharing while mindlessly emptying their cart onto the conveyor belt. It was, in all likelihood, a non-moment for them, but to this outside observer, it was magical.
It was also a moment, not to mention a relationship, which will never quite happen in my nuclear family. Rich and I have six nieces (and, just in the interest of equal time, three nephews) all of whom have climbed on, tickled, teased and played with Rich in a manner that my boys never did. They have also been allowed to get away with a great deal more silliness, shenanigans and temporary insanity with him based not only on the fact that they were not his children, but, and I am just keeping it real here, they are girls. Cute girls, every one of them. (A few of them are grown up now, so have ceased crawling all over him, but the others…they still do.)
Ever since Jessie embraced her social identity as a girl it has created a new kind of challenge for both Rich and me. Having interacted with our second born as a (quirky, fantastic, artistic, funny as hell) boy it is, for me anyway, sometimes difficult to get beyond the outward appearance and try to create a relationship with a daughter (Jessie) that is the same, yet somehow different, than with my son (George). It is incredible to me how powerful this gender stuff really is and how little thought we all give to it until we are put in a position that we are forced to. (And, let there be no misunderstanding: I was forced to.) It also seems that I might need to learn how to love Jessie differently from how I loved George. And, while I am relatively certain that my brothers will both confirm that they don’t think that my father loved me any more than them, they are likely to confirm that he loved me differently. As much as we, as a society, like to avow that our treatment of the sexes is the same, it is sort of, kind of, in a way, impossible to do that… the sexes are not the same. And I say that having had to switch gears ten years into the free-fall we call parenting.
I suppose it is somewhat akin to my father having to change his cookie of choice from the decadent sugar-laden insanity of the Keebler Fudge Crèmes to the very similar, perhaps equally delicious, but different Nabisco Snackwell Chocolate Crème Sandwich cookies. They look the same, and could (at one time) be found in the same aisle, but they are, in many other ways, very different from one another. When my father was forced to change his cookie of choice it was a little sketchy at first, but then, in short order, it was as though the Keeblers never existed. (And, ironically enough, they have long since been discontinued. I know because I look for them every time I go to the cookie aisle…)
p.s. I felt like I used the word “different” (in varying forms) a ridiculous number of times in this post. I even thought I might have unseated my record 14 (or so) uses of the word “ambiguity” in my last post but it turns out it was only four times. But those four times packed a lot of punch!
p.p.s. Things are the pool are going fine. A few people have been clamoring for a follow-up to Jessie’s big announcement but, alas, like much of this stuff about which I pre-worry, there has been zero fall out…I’ve gotta learn what to worry about, apparently.