After posting Memories Tinged with Lilacs, I think my dad was a little jealous. He called and complimented the post, chuckling about the garden hose that followed my mom like a docile snake, and I sensed that he wanted his own special mention.
So here you go, Dad, your very own collection of little memories.
We had a plastic kiddie pool, the kind that leaves a circle of yellowed grass under it at the end of the season. It had a small plastic slide, and even though I don’t remember sliding down it myself, my brother and I used to send our water toys flying. Every now and then our mother would check on us through the kitchen window, a fleeting glimpse of dark brown hair behind a window screen, but otherwise my brother and I spent hours creating our own watery games.
We were in the middle of one of our games, racing pool toys down the slide and splashing the loser, when the back gate opened and closed. It didn’t really matter who won or lost, we were wet either way, but when the gate lock clicked into place and my father strode towards us, the little game was over.
He was balancing lobsters. The bright red things reached for nothing in the open sky, a tangle of moving antennae and claws. We’d never seen them before and we were a combination of curious and terrified. They looked out of place in his hands, confused, baffled by the journey from the ocean to our backyard. Then they were on our slide, splashing into the mix of water and toys, walking quickly on the plastic pool floor in unpredictable circles at our feet.
We screamed and jumped out. Grass floated on the water’s surface. “It’s ok! It’s ok!” My dad corralled us back towards the pool, pointing out the rubber bands on their claws. We watched them beneath a shade of grass clippings, walking among sunken Barbies and floating boats.
Every Christmas we thought we had him beat. If we got up earlier, moved a little quieter, wore slippers, swapped bedrooms, slid down the bannister instead of using the creaky stairs, we could beat him down to the Christmas tree and spy on the presents. We could check the plate of cookies and see if they were gone, if Santa had taken the carrots we’d left for Rudolph, peak inside the stockings.
But no matter how early or how quiet, he was always down there, sipping coffee and waiting on the bottom of the stairs, telling us to go back up and wait. “Every year!” We lamented all the way back to our bedrooms, simmering over with excitement, waiting for the moment we could go back down, plotting for next year.
I was seventeen and for my birthday, my dad took me to see my first Broadway show. I picked Aida, and through the first act, we followed the story of Aida, Amneris, and Radames. I tapped my feet with the music and mouthed the words I knew, thinking how creative the whole thing was.
Act one ended. My dad rose and stretched. “That was good,” he said, gathering his things and walking towards the exit.
“Dad, there’s more.”
“There’s a second act.” He looked like someone had punched him in the stomach. He settled quietly back into his seat.
Afterwards we went to Ground Zero, not the touristy Ground Zero where people went and snapped pictures to take home and say they’d seen it, but the real Ground Zero where my father worked, where you needed special clearance to enter. I watched police and firemen pick through rubble under glaring spotlights. I tried to imagine how all that rubble had once been two entire buildings and couldn’t.
The marvel I’d felt at watching Aida come to life on stage felt inconsequential. The impossible had already happened.
In the summer, we used to take my grandfather’s boat out to the ocean. We’d search for sandbars and pull up as close as we could, then my father and my grandfather would drop my brother and me over the side of the boat with two buckets. We picked through sand for clams, waiting for them to spit at us and give away their hiding places. When our buckets were full, we’d carry them back to the boat and lift our arms, knowing they’d pull us back over and wrap us in oversized t-shirts.