Sitting behind the small wooden desk, she watched the clock…2:20pm. Only ten more minutes and she would hear the sound that brought her closer to spending a few minutes with the man who filled her world with laughter and imagination on a daily basis. She brushed a curl off her face as she stole another glance at the old clock on the wall above the chalkboard whose black surface was covered with the dusty remnants of that day’s lessons. She wondered, how many questions that board had answered through the years? How many equations had been solved? How many teachers had written their name on the board as a form of introduction, their hand flying across its surface with a certain flare that came with the beginning of a new school year? She giggled as she looked up at Mrs. Hudson now. With only a month left in this school year, she had lost that flair, and looked as dusty and worn out as the chalkboard behind her. She better quit daydreaming or Mrs. Hudson would remind her to “join the rest of us in this world” again. Another peek at the clock…
2:25pm – Mrs. Hudson called her row to gather their coats and backpacks out of the closet. This always baffled her. Why did she refer to it as a closet, when in fact it was more like a tunnel with an archway on either end, two walls lined with hooks at just the right height for third graders? Curls bouncing she rushed through the tunnel pretending to be the conductor on a long train, chugging toward faraway lands filled with adventures. She could almost hear the train whistle as she exited the tunnel and took a left turn toward the classroom door, single file behind her classmates.
2:30pm – The sound of her train whistle was drowned out by the ringing of the school bell and it was all she could do not to run out the door. Mrs. Hudson gave her that look again, the one that said, “patience Regina, all in due time.” She hated to be told to slow down as much as she hated to be called Regina. Once out of the building, her little legs pumped as she rushed home to the man who never told her to slow down, encouraged her to dream and who never, ever called her Regina. She sprinted home pretending to be a two-time Olympic gold medalist as she crossed the finish line, flung open the front door and flung her backpack on the floor.
Catching her breath, she quietly tiptoed down the hall, careful not to wake him, knowing he only had a few minutes before his alarm woke him for his night shift at the plant. As she climbed into bed beside him, she carefully placed one tiny knee on the bed, having memorized where the springs of the old mattress would squeak. Unable to resist, she curled up against him, reveling in the strong arms that instinctively reached for her. “Hi Reggie.” She smiled and whispered, “Hi Daddy.” She knew what came next. She would lay beside him as they created stories based on the shapes of the water stains on the ceiling. One day it was a ship at sea, another day a fire-breathing dragon, each a lesson in possibilities. She never tired of it.
She would climb all over him and smother him with kisses, never caring that the stubble on his face would scratch her soft skin. He would laugh as she scrunched up her nose every time his face touched hers, and smile when it didn’t stop her from coming in for another round of kisses before he had to get ready for work.
She would follow him to the bathroom and watch him as he stood before the mirror and shaved. “Shall we pretend I’m a pilot getting ready to fly to Antarctica? How about a high-powered attorney trying a big case? Or a Super Hero about to save the world? What will it be today, Reggie?”
Reggie sat on the edge of the bathtub mesmerized by each stroke of the razor against his skin. In her eyes, he could take on the world. Suddenly, she stood and opened the linen closet. Her little hands pulled something from behind the towels and as she turned to the man with a recurring leading role in all of her adventures, she said. “No need to pretend Daddy. You are my Super Hero. Happy Father’s Day.” Holding back tears, he took the yearly gift of his favorite after shave and a homemade t-shirt. He never tired of it. He scooped his little girl up in his arms. Happy Father’s Day, indeed.