Here’s a story I don’t tell very often, but it’s time.
Hear me out, you’ll see why at the end.
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I’m six years old and it’s Christmas morning. The gifts have been opened. My father is sitting in the bedroom reading. Is he in a good mood? Is he sulking? My dad is the proverbial box-of-chocolates dad; you never know what you’re going to get. Sometimes it’s caramel but more often, he’s one of those hard toffees that get stuck in your teeth.
My mom gestures to me with a smile, has me try on my new pink, quilted bathrobe, the one I opened in the early morning dark by the multi-colored lights of the traditional Christmas eve tree we cut down the day before.
She brushes my long hair into a tight ponytail, attaches a white bow to the hair tie. I probably wince as she secures it. I know what she is doing; smoothing me out, tidying me up. We paint our nails Frosted Seashell.She opens a matching pink umbrella with a new plastic smell and hands it to me.
“Let’s go show your dad,” she says. The expression on her face is warm fireplace, hot chocolate, and tenderness.
We walk into the bedroom, one pretty in pink, one pretty in love.
My dad looks up from the New York Times and says with a tone that’s all mockery,
“Isn’t she pretty? Isn’t she the daintiest thing? Isn’t she adorable?” He draws out the four-syllabled word to prolong the teasing.
I don’t know what threatens him about seeing me without my usual mass of unruly hair, my striped shirt, and scuffed tennis shoes. There’s no love in his tone, even though this cleaned-up version of his daughter is what he often asks for: “Brush your hair. You look like Gravel Gertie.”
“Ann, if you don’t stop talking I’m going to strap you to the roof of the car and use you for a siren.” “Hey, tugboat, no dessert for you.”
I don’t remember my mother’s reaction. I only recall the spear of hot indignation low in my belly, radiating out to my diminutive fist. I narrow my eyes and quick, like an adorable bunny backed into a corner, I pull my arm back and punch him in the face, breaking his only pair of glasses.
The rest of that memory is a blur. I remember being hauled like a wildcat into my room shouting, “It’s not fair!”
I can still hear my father laughing.
Maybe my dad knew that this girlie outfit was as ridiculous on his daughter as it would be if on Bruce Lee. Or maybe my dad was kind of a dick.
Either way, like all of us, life is a little like Fight Club; sometimes you have to put up your dukes and get in the ring. You may not always talk about it, but you’re in there.
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I have the gloves on right now. I finished my book but it’s not nearly good enough.
I have to start over.
I’m going to put on my pink robe and my leggings, and put (max control hair gel) a bow in my hair and start again.
Do I want to?
No, but this book deserves it, and so do you–my readers, friends, and cheering section.
How do I keep going after working so hard and falling short?
I’m not sure, but I know how to get back in there, right on my own home turf, which is where you will find me, punching my book in the nose.
I can almost hear my dad laughing as I write this.
Big thank you to Samantha Hoffman for editing this piece. She edits all my essays. Click for her services.
If you want to catch up and read my last emails about life and loving click here
If you want to read something about how Peanut (my little dog) wanted to be a bee for Halloween click here