Sunday, July 3, 2011

This is between father and daughter

The young girl standing next to me in the card aisle couldn’t be more than eight, maybe nine years old. Her strawberry blonde hair is braided in pigtails and swept back from her forehead, probably a tidy look her mother prefers.

She’s all alone, and I'm wondering how she got here. Did she walk to the store by herself? No, not likely. Did her mother drop her off? Maybe.

Our paths collide in this ocean of cards and envelopes for the sole purpose of picking out just the right one for Father’s Day.

I’m paddling through the “To My Loving Husband” section, while she’s wading in the “Hey, Dad” area.

It seems strange to have someone shorter than I am with whom to sojourn where usually adults, mainly women, flip through cards alongside of me.

For a time in a somewhat synchronous fashion, she and I navigate the greetings with precision, as though swimming laps, raising our hands, selecting cards, one after another, carefully reading and then placing them back into the endless pool of “No, not that one.”

Our arms tire, but we don’t stop in our pursuit of the perfect card.
I’m trying not to gawk at what appears to be a special moment in the young girl’s life. In fact, I’d really like to sit back and simply observe this blessed process, maybe even take some notes.

She appears intensely focused on choosing just the right Father’s Day card. How do I know? Because she keeps searching.

Besides, when was the last time I saw an eight-year-old behaving so selflessly in a greeting card aisle? Never, and I am impressed.

After all, it’s a beautiful blue summer day, and she could be out riding her bike, playing with friends or swimming at the pool.

Instead, she continues sorting through “Dad, Today Is All About You” and “You’re the Best Dad in the World.”

Five, ten, fifteen minutes pass and the mother in me wants to help her along.

“Isn’t this one cute?” I suggest, holding up a sweet card with a papa dog standing behind a puppy that reads, “Behind every great kid there’s a great dad!” Shaking her slightly tilted head in reserved affirmation, she smiles politely and replies quite unconvincingly, “Yeah.”

I stop trying – this is between father and daughter. Besides, everyone knows total strangers can’t help each other pick out cards.

As I walk away, albeit empty handed, I ponder her connections to her father.

Do they play board games and go on bike rides together? Does he attend her concerts and cheer her on?

Does he listen attentively when she is speaking to him, praise good efforts and encourage her when she fails?

Do they have meaningful conversations? Are they even silly at times? Does she share fears and dreams with him? Does she possess all that I did not have with my father?

Maybe so. Otherwise, why is she standing there 30 minutes later, looking, still looking?

2011 © Copyright Paula Damon. A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Bosco Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her writing has won first-place in competitions of the National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women. In the 2009, 2010 and 2011 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contests, her columns have earned eight first-place awards. To contact Paula, email boscodamonpaula@gmail, follow her blog at and find her on FaceBook.