“What are you doing this weekend? my youngest daughter questioned me.
“Why?” I answered her with a suspicious one of my own.
“I was wondering if you wanted to hang out?” she told me.
“With you?” I asked a little caught off guard.
“Yeah – I thought we could hang out since I had to work the weekend of your birthday,” she explained.
“Of course – that’ll be great, babe,” I answered, pleased as punch.
My youngest wasn’t around much, what with her hectic schedule that juggles school activities, work, and not to mention she’s sixteen and it’s not so cool to hang out with your dad. All that had me not exactly holding my breath on a follow up of it actually happening.
When she was little we went together like peanut butter and jelly. On the weekends she’d go to work with me. When the weather was nice she’d use blocks of cut lumber to build and create her own little villages for hours on end while I worked close by.
On the rare days of bad weather I’d leave her in my truck with the engine running and heater toasting her warmly. It didn’t take her too long to figure out how to use the horn as my reminder that she was there waiting for me. Even after I urged her to not use the horn, it was of little use. She figured out too that it made me laugh every time she laid on the horn and made it play a one note song.
Being a little kid at heart, after my half day of work on Saturday was done, it was my pleasure to swing by the local amusement park. We played miniature golf, rode the go-carts, her in my lap. We played video games, pinball, and one of her all time favorites; air hockey. She didn’t know when she was small I’d let her win.
I didn’t think much of that tradition at the time, but we’d always wrap up our outing, after cashing in the cache of tickets to exchange for the cheap trinkets of course, by stopping at the photo booth for carnival type black and white photos… sure glad I did that.
I was surprised again when my daughter asked me if I was ready to go the next weekend.
“Where we going?” I asked.
“You’ll see,” my little one teased… I have no idea where she learned to do that…
I wasn’t shocked that our very first stop on “hang out” day was Cracker Jax, our old stomping grounds. It’s changed a bit, looks older, like me I guess. They don’t have pinball machines anymore and a new laser tag has gobbled up most of the arcade space. But the place was still magical. Not so much the place as it was the precious time and memories made with my daughter there.
Like the old arcade has changed, so has my daughter and myself to a lesser degree. I don’t let her win at air hockey anymore… she does that on her own occasionally without any help from me.
The little girl I once carried like a football is fully grown now… she’s taller than her mom, but not too old to sit on my knee in the photo booth at the end of one of our amusement park outings. Birthday presents just don’t get any better than that in this life.
“Did you have fun, dad?” my daughter asked, knowing full full well the answer, but just wanted to hear me say it.
“It was great, babe. It couldn’t have been any better, thanks, babe.”
“You’re welcome,” she said… beaming like the twinkle of her in her dad’s eyes…