Michael Honigfort did not want to wake up. The Siegel-Robert function had kept him out late last night, and he just wanted to sleep. But he couldn’t. He could sense it. He could sense her.
He opened his eyes. Sure enough, a pair of big, bright blue eyes, almost hidden under an unruly mop of brown hair, were staring directly into his.
“It’s seven o’clock, Daddy. Can we play Bears now?” That little voice couldn’t fail to make him smile.
“Aaallllright!” He said and climbed out of bed to retrieve his bathrobe. Her little arms reached up as high as they could to deposit the armful of stuffed animal “babies” she was carrying on the bed, before climbing up after them.
When he came back, she had nearly finished arranging them around her, many of the less sturdy ones propped up on pillows or against his wife’s back as she tried in vain to catch a few more minutes rest.
“The pirates came last night, Daddy! Strong Bear must have fought them off again because he managed to steal a treasure map.” The cream-colored muscular Teddy Bear did, indeed, have a folded-up piece of paper in one of his pockets; the same piece of paper that Michael had drawn before bed last night in preparation for their Sunday ritual. “We’re ready for an adventure!”
“I heard it through the grapevine! Oh I heard it through the grapevine. Yes, I heard it through the grape vine. How much longer would you be mine? Yes how much longer would you be mine? No, no, I heard it – Heard it! – Yes I heard it through the grapevine…”
Gladys Knight and the Pips crooned through the car’s stereo speakers, though she didn’t know who sang it. She didn’t care. It was just The Grapevine Song to her. Every time he drove her somewhere, and it was just the two of them, she’d ask him to put on The Grapevine Song. He’d tell her the find the tape, and she’d root through the center console until she found the right one. It was a nice day so they took the top off. The wind whipped through their hair; she was glad that Mommy had put her hair in pig tails today so that it didn’t blow all over her face. She’d picked out hair ties that were the same purple as her shirt – her and Daddy’s color.
She liked to think she could help Daddy drive his Corvette. She’d put her hand on the silver and black stick and it would be nice and smooth and cool. Her hand was just barely able to grab it. He’d cover her little baby hand with his own; large and strong, so strong. She loved the feel of her father’s hand around hers. When his hand covered hers, she felt safe, and she knew with absolute certainty that her big, strong daddy would protect her. Nothing bad could happen when he was there.
He looked over at her and smiled that big joyous smile that seemed to cover his whole face. “You ready?”
“We’re going into second.” They pulled the stick straight back.
“Now shift into third.” Vrooooommmm. The car raced around the turn and onto 170 South.
Many years have passed and much of her is now different, but the big blue eyes are still the same. She’s grown 3 1/2 feet, and the colorful leggings and matching shirts have been replaced by jeans and nice tops. The Stride-Right flowered tennis shoes have been replaced by black boots. She’s started wearing jewelry and make-up, and sometimes he wonders if he’s still the center of her world. He is.
“Did it come? Did it come!?!” She’s home for the weekend – she doesn’t live there all the time anymore. He wished she did, but he was glad to have her as close as she is. “Oh! It’s a beauty! Soooo…what’s the specs? How’s it working?”
“16GB memory, 750GB hard drive, 15inch screen…”
“Nice, nice….Quad core?”
“Of course.” They both hover around it, checking out its bells and whistles.
She flashes back to the first laptop he ever bought – nearly ten years ago. It was a bright-blue Dell computer. They opened it together and set it up on the family room floor. The thing was a brick by today’s standards, but that’s technology for you. At the time it was the coolest thing she had ever seen. It was also something that interested Dad. From then on, technology became their thing as well. They would marvel over and discuss each new development, each new product.
She can’t remember when so many of the rituals changed, and she just wished that she could stop it all. Stop the change. “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” stopped playing one day – though she can’t remember when. Nor can she remember when “Bears” stopped.
In later years, she would wish she was still that same small girl. She would place her hand on the stick shift, and he would guide her through the motions, but it wasn’t the same. Her hand fit the gear shift better now, and his hand no longer felt so big. She knew, too, now, that she wasn’t really helping.
But it was okay because with each end was a new beginning – a new “thing.” In the years following Bears and the stick shift were rock tumbling and other activities. As she grew older, she began to understand technology, and she grew to love action movies – about the same time Mom decided she’d seen enough. She knew that though she could never again be the four year- old that played Bears on Sunday mornings or the seven year-old who helped Daddy drive, she knew too that they would always have a “thing.” Always.