"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Daddy's Smile

Here is my response to the writing prompt from the class Carrie and I are taking together. The prompt: Write a story about a child or very young adult's notion of the spiritual, the magical, or the religious. I encourage you to make the child the "I" in the story--but it can be fiction or memoir or a hybrid. Include in your story a hot beverage, a specific kind of tree, and something that has or is believed by someone in the story to have some magical property.

Daddy’s Smile

The squeak-scrunch, squeak-scrunch sound of Daddy’s boots in the snow makes me a little sleepy. We’ve been walking in the woods for a while now looking for our Christmas tree. It’s just him and me. No Mommy. No pesky little brothers. He picked me up when I said my toes were cold. They’re still really cold, but I don’t tell Daddy that. The rest of me is so toasty warm, my arms and legs wrapped around him piggyback, his whiskers tickling my cheek. I like breathing in his cigar and sawdust and green soap smell. He’s so strong, holding me up with one hand under my bottom, the big axe swinging from his other.

Daddy tells me the names of trees whenever we’re in the woods together. He cuts trees down for his job and he knows every tree there is. Ponderosa Pine trees are our favorite. We like them because of how they smell, and their pretty red and black bark, and the needles that are soft and poky all at the same time. Those are not good Christmas trees, though. We’re looking for a fir tree. Those are the best. I used think fir trees had real fur on them, like bears. Not any more though. I’m a big girl now.

Mommy tells me all the time what a big girl I am. “You’re too big to be carried around.” “Big girls eat their peas.” “Mark is just a baby. You’re a big girl. He needs me more than you do right now.” I’m not so sure I like being a big girl.

Daddy just says I’m his special girl. When he smiles at me I feel like I could fly – it feels that good. My heart gets jumpy. I get warm in secret places. I am so happy I want to laugh and laugh and laugh. No other thing ever makes me feel like that.

This morning Mommy got me up extra early so I could be ready for our Christmas tree hunt. She even made me hot chocolate to warm my tummy, but she wasn’t smiling at all. Until Daddy patted her bottom and gave her his smile and then she was happy, too. She gave me marshmallows for my chocolate, even though before Daddy’s smile she said marshmallows are not for breakfast. I was my best good girl because if I made her mad she might not let me go with Daddy, and also I want Santa to leave me presents under our tree. I said please and thank you. I didn’t cry when I burned my tongue on the chocolate. I ate all my oatmeal, even though I hate oatmeal.

This is the first time I get to help pick out our Christmas tree by myself. Last year we all went, but it was just Daddy and Mommy and Frankie and me. Baby Mark was still in Mommy’s tummy. Daddy pulled Frankie and me on a sled. Frankie got to sit in front because he’s littler than me, but I didn’t care so much because Daddy let me pick out the tree. This year Frankie has a cold, and Baby Mark is too little, so Mommy has to stay home. I couldn’t act too happy that it’s just my daddy and me, or she would have made me stay home, too.

We need this tree because soon it will be the birthday of Baby Jesus who is God’s son, like I am Daddy’s daughter. Christmas is when we celebrate how God sent Jesus to earth to save everyone from their sins. I guess I need to be extra nice to Jesus because Mommy says I do a lot of sins.

Jesus had a mommy and daddy besides God, but they were really poor and people were mean to them. I wonder if Jesus minds not getting to be in heaven with His real daddy. If I am a really good girl, Santa will bring me presents on Christmas, and that means God is happy with me and not sad because I wasn’t nice to His Son. If I’m not a good girl, Santa won’t bring me presents and God will be sad and so will Jesus. If I’m really bad I will have to go to hell, which is worse than no presents.

So I try hard to be good. I know I’m the best good girl when I see Daddy’s smile. It’s easy to make him smile. He taught me how, and I’m good at being his special girl. It’s not so easy to make Mommy smile. She hardly ever smiles at me any more, no matter what I do. I wish I could smile at her like Daddy does. I hope God listens to Daddy more than He listens to Mommy.

“Look, Squirt!” Daddy’s voice is quiet and excited all at the same time. He’s stopped and points the axe just ahead. It’s a deer. So close I can see her eyelashes. I know it’s a girl, a doe, because she doesn’t have antlers. She looks right at us with her big ears and her black tail up. She’s so pretty. A deer ate out of my hand once. I wonder if she’ll come closer. I know to be very still. Daddy will not smile at me if I make noises. You have to be very quiet and careful with wild animals or they run away or maybe even attack if you scare them enough.

The deer and us watch each other for a really long time. Then she snorts at us, kind of like a goodbye, and wanders away into the woods. “Isn’t that something?” Daddy’s voice is still really quiet, and I’m not even sure he’s talking to me.

His hand isn’t under my bottom any more, and my arms are tired, so I slide down his back. I stand really still, not sure what to do next. Then Daddy turns around and smiles his best and biggest smile at me. “Good girl, Squirt. You didn’t scare her away. I’m really proud of you.” He pulls me into him and hugs me hard and picks me up and kisses me. I wonder if Jesus wishes he had a daddy with a smile like my daddy’s, and who doesn’t give him away. I hope God sees what a good girl I am to make my daddy so happy. I think Santa will be bringing me lots of presents this year.

“Let’s get that tree, Squirt. Mommy’s going to think we’ve gotten lost.” My wool-mittened hand disappears into Daddy’s leather-gloved hand, and we walk toward a bunch of firs, smiling.


Ambiance in the Attic said...

Your story was enchanting. It was wonderful how you followed the guidelines effortlessly. Icould feel the cold snow and smelled the trees. Daddy's smile made me smile too!

Janna Qualman said...

Deb, the voice was so pure and audible. I loved it. It also found some little part of me, the one that was a daddy's girl. You did so well with this.

Jerri said...

This story feels ominous— I hear more than the words say.

Telling one story with the words you use and another with the ones you don't use takes real skill, and you've done that beautifully.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Ditto Jerri. Could be I've got TMI, but there is a beautiful and haunting quality to this.

I am astounded by how many of us grew up so afraid of God. It's ridiculous. And frankly? I'm more than a little pissed off about it!

Amber said...

It reads like memoir. Sounds like truth. The mommy reminds me of my grandmother. I hope that little girl makes her mom smile.


The Unbreakable Child said...

Deb, I loved this. Excellent show. It reminded me of the song Taylor Swift sings ... 'I Had The Best Day'

Anonymous said...

Melancholy and yet touching at once. Sad because of your view on God as a child, and yet touching as you recall your daddy's presence when you were a child.

Tabitha Bird said...

Beautiful, haunting. sad :) great post Deb

Pam said...

Loved this Deb. Reminded me of when I was little when my brother was a baby.Unfortunately if you fall out with your Dad in family dynamics such as this, there's nowhere else much to go,so it's haunting in more ways than you can possibly imagine.Dad's 86 now with dementia, and we're just getting that relationship you've written about back - we both search out those reciprocal smiles.

kario said...

You are so good at "assignments." I suspect that this is both a blessing and a curse, but I'm expecting terrific things from this class you guys are taking.

Love you.

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