I’ve known what I wanted to post for your birthday for a while now. Granted, I could write about the time I smeared cookie dough in your mustache because I thought you were fake sleeping. Perhaps helping you in the garage, learning how to ski, or scrambled eggs would make great topics. I could write about how unbelievably scared I was two years ago when you had your stroke, or the pride I felt last week when we accomplished a goal together. Whether its your perfectly buttered toast or just the right solution to a problem I’m having, I’m so thankful that I get to celebrate YOU today!
I know this is lengthy, but this is a piece I began writing a long time ago. I originally thought it was a piece about Garth and I…but as I wrote, I realized it became a piece about being Daddy’s Girl. Today, this is my gift to you. I love you beyond words. Happy Birthday!
I saw the glow of Christmas lights through the still-drawn shades of my parents’ home and smiled. I’ve always loved the holidays – the energy and excitement, the inherent insanity of extended family gatherings. From the moment he proposed, a December wedding seemed completely perfect.
Climbing out of the car, the mid-sixty degree weather was a welcome contrast to the thick white snow that shone in the early morning light. As I carefully collected my dress, we made our way inside.
“Hello? We’re home.” I called upon entering.
“Well if it isn’t the newlyweds,” chimed mom as she rounded the corner of the kitchen. Exchanging hugs, dad joined us and we sat for a few moments to chat before busily preparing for the brunch that would begin shortly.
With each family member that arrived, my parents’ home grew smaller in such a way that it added to the coziness of both the season and the lingering sentimentality we all seemed to be feeling. Eating and laughing, I looked around the room at the two sides of my new family and allowed the little bubble of happiness to tickle its way through me. My aunt and new sister-in-law were laughing and chatting like old friends, and our grandparents were smiling over their steaming mugs of coffee. I remember thinking, so this is how it feels, as I watched my new family get more acquainted.
Still on display, my new husband and I opened our gifts with our family offering the appropriate “oooo’s and aaaa’s.” We were back to our “real-selves” and not our “wedding-selves” anymore.
Just as the wedding and reception, the brunch passed by quickly and people began retreating to the comfort of their own homes. We spent the afternoon getting things put away and by early evening the day had come full circle leaving just my parents and us at home. In the emptiness, their home felt much larger, but the remnant notes of laughter, the soft twinkling of the tree lights and the quiet holiday music playing in the background filled the home with happiness and love.
Once again we talked about the ceremony and the unpredictably perfect weather. Ever the hostess, Mom asked, “So what do you guys want to do tonight?” It was a simple question, with an ordinary answer. Looking into my husband’s eyes and then back in the direction of my parents, I replied plainly, “Well, I think we’re just going home.”
“Oh? Well sure,” she said. Dad shifted in his chair.
“But we can hang out here for a while, right Babe?”
“You bet,” he said, squeezing my hand. He knew me too well.
* * *
Finally, the time came and we said our good-byes. Making arrangements to get the rest of our gifts and my belongings, we headed toward our car. The snow now glistened in the silvery moonlight and our breath fell in steamy clouds as we offered one last farewell. I felt slightly foolish about being so emotional, especially now, when everything was over. I’d always thought that waiting with my dad in the foyer of the church, walking down the aisle, or dancing that “daddy-daughter” dance at the reception would cause that tight feeling in my throat. Perhaps I thought this because at the very mention of any of these events, my dad would get that look in his eyes and politely change the subject.
Honestly, I was somewhat surprised, and mildly disappointed, that throughout it all he remained so composed. Yet thinking back, perhaps it was his composure that allowed me to keep my emotions at bay as well. I never imagined that a simple statement – “Well, I think we’re going home,” – could bring tears to his eyes. And mine.
“It’s not like we won’t see them again, right?” I asked Garth while swiping at the tears I could no longer contain. “I mean, what’s the big deal?”
“You’re not his little girl anymore,” he said calmly. “That IS a big deal.” I glanced back at the two of them, huddled together behind their frosty front door, waving. A quick wave and we were on our way. It was a bittersweet feeling to be leaving home, yet heading there as well.
* * *
It wasn’t in my white dress, under a veil that I became a wife. It was in the reflection of expression in my father’s eyes that I saw my new role and embraced it with all the uncertainty it included.