I’m sitting at my desk at home, and just to my right, tacked to the wall with a finishing nail is a little paper strip with four photos of my daughter Ellie and me. You know what I’m talking about – they’re from one of those timed, carnival photo-booths, where you have to change positions, props and faces super-quick, or you’ll miss one of them. Or all of them.
Well, the photos caught my eye, and because I’m a doddering old fart, I have to put on my doddering old fart glasses to see them clearly. In the first one, we’re pretending to be an old couple, driving an old ‘50s car, on vacation or something. In the second one, it looks like Ellie’s giving me directions. In the third, we’ve ditched the car prop for a very serious Rock ‘n’ Roll pose, and in the last one, I’m smooching her on the cheek, and she has this HUGE, cheesy smile on her face.
Here’s what gets me though: at the very bottom, in big froofy letters it says “Father-Daughter Camp, 2017.” Ellie was born in 2000. She was seventeen!
I must admit, the first time she came to Father-Daughter Camp with me, it was not all smooches and smiles. She was 10 or 11, and she was nervous. She only knew one other girl, and up to that point, she had never made it through a sleepover. Even though I had assured her I would be snoring just a few doors away, she insisted that the best option was to sleep in our minivan. I know some of you have done that. Even in the loveliest of second-hand Oldsmobile Silhouettes with the most sumptuous of old collapsed leather seats, it is not the best option. But we did it. Six hours later, the sun was far from coming up, we were both frozen solid, Ellie’s hair had become a cumulo-nimbus cloud, and my pelvis had turned to dust.
But it has never been about the sleeping arrangements. Ellie loves going to Father-Daughter Camp because of this: it is a special time set aside for the two of us. She cherishes it. In fact, she cherishes it so much that she is seriously thinking of missing part of her sophomore move-in weekend at college to come again this year.
The thing is, I cherish the time with her, too. As she starts to do more and more “adulting” as she calls it, she has to make big decisions for herself, and I can tell that she still sometimes gets nervous about growing up. I don’t always get to see her smile like she did in the photo booth – without a care in the world. The moments we’ve had at Camp are priceless.
I hope she knows that I would take a bullet for her. I am pretty sure she knows that she is one of a very small number of people in my life that can make me sleep in a van.