When you were little, did you ever get lost? That total panic I-can’t-find-my-parent-or-guardian and I-don’t-really-want-to-live-at-great-adventure-like-I-said-earlier-I’m-just-a-kid-and-we-say-dumb-sh*t-like-that-all-the-time-so-seriously-where-are-you lost. Like, one second you’re following behind the khaki-ed leg of your dad at the hardware store, running your fingers through the boxes of washers and bolts, slapping your hand on aluminum sheets that sound like thunder, asking, “What is this for? What about this? What’s this for? Do you have one of these at home? Do you need one of these?”
And next thing you know you’re tugging on the denim-ed leg of a stranger, asking for a nickel for the gumball machine. And you innocently look up at the not-your-dad guy and then the cold fear washes over your little self. And the not-your-dad guy looks down at you with not-your-dad eyes and says “Are you lost”? This is not your dad.
And you realize, “Yes, yes I am lost. My father has apparently gathered all of the supplies he needs for that thing that my mother keeps reminding him has been godd*mn broken for weeks and he’s settled back into gray velour driver’s seat of the family car and is likely listening to those boring guys talk on the radio and somehowsomehowsomehow he’s not noticing that there isn’t anyone playing with the air vents or drawing smiley faces on the window after huffing smears of hot breath onto the glass or asking for a kitten, a kite, a kazoo. (howcomehowcomewhynotcomeonpleasepleasepleeeeeeease?)”
So you’re sad. But you’re also scared. And you cry and the man’s eyes crinkle at the corners when he squints and that’s kind of like your dad but not really. He signals over a younger man that works in the store which you know because he’s wearing that red vest and you wish you had remembered to just walk to the counter like your dad told you to do in case something like this happened. (How did he know that something like this might happen? If he knew, why didn’t he make sure that you were always behind the khaki leg and nevernevernever the denim one?)
And then you hear it, really-your-dad’s voice. And you see him walking quickly in your direction and you start to sob now because how dare you, Daddy? And he’s smiling at the red vest guy, shaking his head and laughing with the denim-ed not-your-dad guy. “Oh, kids,” he seems to be saying. “You know how they can just wander off.”
And you’re relieved and angry at the same time.
But you see his concern and that makes it okay. And then you get picked up, maybe a quick but gentle reprimand, a kiss on the forehead.
You put your cute, wet face in the place where his neck meets his shoulder and you say “I didn’t know where you were, I was scared.”
And if you’re smart you say “Mom will probably be upset, huh?”
And you’ll soon be making a bit of an unexpected detour on the way home for something like, oh I don’t know. . .
a kick-a** kazoo.
Love you, Dad.