Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Daddy's Little Girl (Part II)

My family moved to Minnesota when I was five years old and just about to start kindergarten. When we arrived in the Twin Cities, my parents decided that a father/daughter program would be a great bonding experience. My dad enjoyed the idea of spending one night a month and a full weekend a quarter with me and other father/daughter teams; my mom enjoyed the idea of some time to herself.

The program we were enrolled in was through the Y.M.C.A. It was called "Princesses" and it was modeled off of the different Native American tribes. I have many fun memories of times in the program and my dad. His name during those times was, "Silent Oak." I was named, "Little Oak."

Once a month, our "tribe" would get together for an evening or Saturday afternoon filled with activities. I remember going to the archery range and learning how to shoot a bow and arrow. One time we had a wood burning/engraving project where we made name badges for our necklaces. In the winter, we would go sledding or cross-country skiing. I think ice fishing was even one of the events.

Three quarters of every year there was a weekend long event. During the fall, we would meet at a local camping area with all the other "tribes" and play games (Tag, trivia, charades) and have a large bonfire. All the fathers and daughters would gather around the flames and sing campfire songs, like the classic (at least it's a classic to me) chant, "I said a boom-a shaka-lacka-shaka-lacka-chica boom!" Then we would repeat it in various voices (operator, football player, pick a stereo-type and you got it). People would tell ghost stories and the girls would hide behind their dads.

At one of the autumn events, our tribe set up our tents at a large field away from the main campground. We were surrounded by forest and the little pocket was a perfect place for us to be away, yet still close to the action. The girls in my group had a great time climbing the chain fence set up as an obstacle course. Someone had told us the spooky story about the man with a hook for a hand trying who escaped the mental institution. I'm sure most have heard a version of this urban legend. Not one of us fully believed the story, yet we had fun pretending it was true. I remember hiking through the forest with a couple of the other girls and we would pretend the man was stalking behind us. We'd get to different parts of the obstacle course set up (the chain fence, tires arranged in a pattern, etc) and then we'd try to make it through the obstacles quickly so "he wouldn't get us". None of us were afraid at bedtime, we had our daddies right next to us in our individual tents.

There is one thing I can definitely say about my father. That man can SNORE. Oh, wow. Girls in the other tents actually thought there was a bear in the tent with my dad and I. My dad's snoring builds. It starts off low and quiet. As each breath is taken in, it gains in volume until he gets to the point where you think, "It can't get any louder." Well, it can't. That's when he snores so loudly it wakes him up. Then he looks around, confused and disturbed as to what woke him up. I used to bring along a Walk-Man and listen to the same tapes over and over, hoping the music could drown out the snoring. I have enough trouble falling asleep with sounds around me, but my dad's snoring didn't even have a steady beat to it!

One of the winter events involved building snow houses to sleep in at night. My dad and I spent the entire day, bundled up from the cold, packing snow into a little igloo to share with another girl and her father. Once the building was made, a candle was lit inside of it, to melt the insides into ice.

As the ice house was in its final stages of preparation, it was time for a little bit of fun. We took our intertubes and went sledding. The girl that was supposed to stay in our house with us that night ended up crashing into a fence and had to go home early. Since our house was built with certain people in mind and cutting two individuals out of the equation, the body heat wouldn't be enough to keep us warm while we slept. My dad was able to find another parent/child team for us to share an ice house with that night. The other child didn't want to sleep in a house that she and her father didn't build, we ended up sharing their cold home.

In the middle of the night, I awoke and I did not feel well. My spot was close to the wall of the ice house and my sleeping bag was not enough to keep me warm. I remember feeling terrible about being miserable. I lay awake, silent for about an hour, crying softly to myself. I didn't want to wake up my dad, yet I finally realized that I would have to.

I found my boots and put them on. Then, wearing my nightgown, moon boots, and my bulky winter coat, I stood outside the entrance to the ice house, shivering and whispering, "Dad, Dad, please wake up." I was trying not to wake up the others in the same house and I cried and cried to myself. It wasn't so much the cold as the inconvenience. I hated the idea of ruining someone's fun.

My dad tells this story sometimes and always says the same thing. When he finally heard my pleas, his first thought was, "Oh, she's just cold and whining." Then he reached over and touched my sleeping bag. As it turns out, the ice house we were in should have only had three people sleeping in it. Four had too much body heat and the walls started to melt. My sleeping bag was completely soaked through and I was sleeping in a pool of ice water. It took my dad exactly three minutes to gather our stuff, load the car, and take me home. He made sure to let me know it wasn't my fault, I had a right to complain.

My dad is a great man. He is a wonderful father and I love him very much. He is my hero and I strive each day to be more like him, as much as I don't admit that to him. I will be telling a few more stories of our days in this program.