Meredith Baker: Daddy’s Home (memoir)
Southern Legitimacy Statement: I’m a debutant, a beachcomber, and a native of South Carolina. The place of my most vivid memories was my grandmother’s farm — shucking corn, snapping beans, and hand-churning peach ice cream.
It’s 5:00 and today, like every day, Mom is in the kitchen cooking dinner. I’m pacing the front yard, listening for a familiar sound. While I walk around, I gather granite pebbles – free, sparkly treasure. Tomorrow I’ll tell the gullible Turbyfill boys I’ve found diamonds in my yard, or I’ll save the rocks until Halloween and give them out to trick-or-treaters, like I did last year.
Putt, putt, putt. My head snaps up, and I scurry to the corner of the lot − the spot as far away from the house as I can go without breaking the “stay-in-the-yard” rule. A familiar blur plays peek-a-boo with me through the trees. The pearl white VW bug turns onto my street and heads towards me. Daddy’s home!
I run alongside the car giggling and waving, careful not to get too close. Daddy slows down giving my five-year-old legs the false hope of being able to keep up; he speeds up, and I fall behind. Daddy turns into the driveway and stops. When I catch up a moment later, he’s waiting for me at the top of the drive, his window already rolled down.
“Hey, Sloopy. What did you learn at school?”
I respond with a kiss to his cheek, and answer his question with a question, “Can we, Daddy?”
He lowers his eyelids and glances around as if we are planning something illegal, “You think we should?”
I burst into a giggle fit at this ridiculous comment. Of course I do. We haven’t even told Mom about our ritual, which makes our secret double-delicious. I set my feet firmly on the car’s narrow running board and grab the rearview mirror tightly.
My stomach flips as Daddy shoves the gearshift into neutral. It flops as he eases off the brake. We roll down the cement driveway at warp speed. Before the tires can make a quarter turn, we’ve burst into song — our song. “Haaaaannnng on Sloopy. Sloopy, hang on.” We belt out the words as we glide down the hill and sing the refrain until we drift to a stop under the carport.
I hop off so Daddy can get out of the car. The trip down my childhood driveway seems to shorten with each passing day. Daddy scoops me into his strong arms. My thoughts dissolve as I snuggle against his neck, oblivious to the fact that there is one less day in a finite number. Unaware I am wishing my childhood away, I whisper in his ear, “I can’t wait until tomorrow.”