Wednesday, July 2, 2014

For my Dad: Love Matters

It's been awhile. In truth, I kind of forgot that I started this blog. But now that I have nothing to do this summer but wait for my mission call to come, I decided to start writing again. I like writing. I don't know if people like to read what I write, but I don't want to miss the opportunity that somebody could learn something from, or even just understand, for a moment, my perspective on the world. Who knows, maybe a publisher will run across my blog and beg me to write a book about my musings. Ha, just kidding.

Anyways, here is a personal essay I wrote about my amazing dad for my freshman writing class (I've been at BYU for the past year).

Love Matters

I walk through the double doors, my eyes scanning the crowd for an empty seat, preferably one with easy access. The room is full of chattering girls, with the occasional guy looking out of place in this child development class. I spot an unoccupied chair, but it’s in the middle of the row.  Side-stepping and murmuring an occasional “Excuse me,” I make my way through the line of legs and backpacks, finally arriving in the middle of the row and slumping down in the seat. The projector flashes on to reveal a single slide with the words, “Do love, warmth, and affection matter in proper development?” My thoughts immediately turn to my own development and memories quickly begin to flash like a rapid-fire camera, capturing snapshots of my childhood.
* * *
            I squeeze my eyes and mouth shut as the warm water rushes over my head, rinsing the lavender suds out of my short hair.
            “Dad! I’m ready for Superman!” I yell in my loudest voice. I hear footsteps and a familiar melody coming down the hallway. Springing out of the bathtub, I raise my arms up high, waiting for my dad. He appears in the bathroom with a towel, and begins to wrap it tightly around my torso while singing the opening notes to the Superman theme song. He grasps the back of the wrapped towel with both hands. My anticipation grows as his singing grows louder and more excited. Finally, he swings me up into the air as the triumphant theme swells. I squeal and thrust my arms out in front of me, flying high around the house: through the kitchen past my smiling mother, over the barking dog, and back down the hallway into my bedroom. He sets me down and I laugh as the excitement wears off.
            “Thanks Daddy!” I say as I stand there, shivering and grinning widely.
            “You’re welcome sweetheart. Now, put your pajamas on and I’ll come to tuck you in soon.”
 He exits. I quickly towel off and pull on my purple pajama pants and matching shirt. I clamber onto my bed, and begin to flip through a picture book about farm animals that fight over the last potato. Again I hear footsteps in the hallway. I fling myself onto the pillow and yank my blanket over my head, hiding beneath the fabric and stifling giggles.
“Oh, I guess I can’t tuck Rachel in if she’s not here,” my dad teases. I hear him start towards the door.
 “I’m right here!” I burst out in playful indignation, ripping the blanket off of my head.
“There you are!” He smiles and tickles my tummy. I shriek with laughter, my legs kicking out to ward off the tickles.
“Okay, let’s tuck you in.” He grasps the edge of the comforter and tugs it gently up to my chin, tucking the sides under my arms. He grabs Lammy, my special blanket, and flicks it in the air, fanning it out. I catch the edge in the air and we spread the blanket out on top of my comforter. He helps me find the “crunchy spot”— a distinct wrinkle in the lace edge that I rub softly between my fingers as my eyelids begin to droop. My mouth stretches open with a big yawn. Dad begins to weave a soft, mysterious melody. Strands of silky notes creep into my head and encase my thoughts, catching them in their enchanting grasp. The melody pulls my eyelids lower and lower until I finally give in to the gentle force of the song. The lullaby ends, and I feel the gentle press of lips on my forehead, and a whisper, “I love you,” as I drift off to sleep.
* * *
“To answer the question, let’s take a look at this video,” I hear my professor announce and the chatter dies down as the lights dim. The slide changes to a video about children in a Romanian orphanage. The clip shows images of children with big, round eyes flatly staring into the camera; the light in their eyes has been slowly snuffed out by the dreary days of loneliness and cold. They rock back and forth or bite their own hands just to stimulate themselves in some way. My professor recounts a story of a child he saw on a visit to Romania. She lay on the floor, shirking from any sound or motion because she was punished for crying. Punished for crying out in loneliness, punished because she was being denied any sort of affection. My heart grew heavy as I tried to imagine a life without simple acts of affection: a squeeze on the shoulder, a proud smile, a congratulatory pat on the back.
* * *
The shrill cry of the whistle signaled the end of the game. My run becomes a walk and I wipe the sweat from my face with the edge of my shirt. My heart sinks once more as I glance at the scoreboard. 2-1. Begrudgingly, I shake the hands of my opponents, mumbling “Good game” after every touch. My throat burns with a fiery lack of air as I sit down to stretch. Around me, I see disappointed scowls on the faces of my teammates. We were so close, but we just couldn’t clench another goal. Carefully, I pull my cleats off and my feet breathe a sigh of relief. I slip on my sandals, and carry my gear and my disappointment over to my dad.
“Hey girl. You played great out there.” He takes my bag full of cleats, dirty socks, and empty water bottles.
“We lost. I know we could have won,” I groan as I shuffle to the parked car. “You drove two hours just to see us lose.” I run my hands through my wind-crazed hair and let out a sigh.
“You worked harder than anyone out there and you had some great plays. You left it all on the field. I’m proud of you,” he says as he puts his arm around my shoulders and squeezes. My spirits lift a little as I slowly climb into the car, my legs heavy with fatigue. Dad puts my bag on the backseat, but I leave the defeat in the parking lot as we drive away.
“Can we get Chipotle?” I ask hopefully as we navigate out of the soccer complex parking lot.
“You bet. You deserve it!” my dad replies and I smile. He slides a disc into the CD player and I smile as I hear the opening notes of my favorite song. I start to sing along, and we laugh as my voice cracks on the high note. Man, my dad is the best, I think as I lean the cushioned seat back and imagine myself savoring a large, juicy burrito.
* * *
My thoughts return to the present as I hear my professor quietly answer the question on the solitary slide.
“Yes,” he says reverently, “Love, warmth, and affection absolutely matter.” I feel my heart silently agree with him as it swells with love for the warm memories of my childhood and my dad. The bell rings and the chatter of girls, backpack zippers, and rustling papers grows as the crowd exits the narrow rows. I walk up the stairs and out of the building. I see a man and his little daughter walking past. She is grinning from ear to ear, skipping and holding his hand with her tiny fingers. His expression is one of such warmth for his skipping daughter, his pride and joy, that I cannot help but smile at this scene. I feel my heart overflow with love once again at the thought of my own loving dad, threatening to spill over into my eyes.  I answer my professor’s question in my own mind, Love does matter; in fact, it makes all the difference.

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