My Daddy liked to give his girls flowers. Mom and I love flowers. They’re so cheery and alive … and I am not a green thumb. And then they provide height and texture, but that’s another story. Anyway …
When I was little, I took dance class, and every spring was recital time. We would spend countless hours beginning immediately after Christmas learning the choreography, trying on costumes (I remember quite vividly playing with the loose sequins on the dusty floor.), and practicing in our spray-painted-to-match tap shoes (and ballet shoes, and whatever-else shoes), all in anticipation of the big night. Then we would lug everything, including VERY heavy makeup (and by “heavy,” I mean the application, not the weight) and shiny accessories, down to the beautiful Perot Theater, where girls of all ages would cram together in one big “dressing room” to change costumes, primp, spray, laugh, practice, and be hovered over by our mothers. We were admonished for hanging out backstage (“I can see you from the audience!”), for running behind the curtain (it made waves that were distracting to the audience!), and for clomping up and down the stairs in our tap shoes. We were hollered at from the front row for not being in sync, for not smiling, for counting with our lips moving, for not using the entire stage … You name it. We dealt with stage fright, bright lights in our eyes, strange people and places and noises, and more hovering mothers that were not our own. For girls ages anywhere from 5 to 18, it was a grueling and emotionally draining week. For those of us who didn’t really particularly enjoy it, it was just torture. I would rather be playing softball.
But the big night (or afternoon, as it were) was almost magical. Once the music started, it did not stop until the finale. Backstage was like its own city, running like clockwork. We went on stage, we performed, we came off, we changed costumes, and we did it again. We snuck backstage to watch our heroes—the older girls who amazed us with their grace and beauty. And some of us, to our own astonishment, became the admired after a time. And the most magical moments of all were those surprises where loved ones wanted to honor us, usually in the form of having a young dancer present a bouquet of flowers to the soloist at the end of the dance. She so elegantly accepted them and kept on dancing. I always wanted to be one of the recipients, but I never was. I don’t think Daddy knew how special that would have been for me, but his way turned out better.
Daddy handed them to me himself.
The first time, we were in the parking lot when recital was still at Texarkana College in the old auditorium. (It’s no longer there, but my memory is as vivid as if I were there last night. I can still smell the popcorn they allowed in the auditorium, still see the girls sitting in the seats in their costumes, and still remember the annals of the backstage area in my mind.) He said something about forgetting to give me something, and he opened the trunk and pulled out a huge bouquet (to me, anyway … I must have been about 10) of yellow roses. I was stunned. My heart was bursting with love for him, and with the knowledge of his love for me, and the understanding that no matter what, I was still his girl. Daddy wasn’t always a very demonstrative man when it came to affection, so it was moments like these that I held on to, even when I was all grown up, because I knew that was his way of saying he loved me, he was proud of me, and he was proud to be my Daddy. Always.
And from then on, it was tradition. I came to expect my flowers every year. Sometimes he sent them to me at school. Sometimes he brought them home. Sometimes Mom would bring them backstage, so I could be the envy of the girls in the big dressing room. I don’t remember the last time he sent me flowers. But I know he loved me, and that is all I need.