“What time will you be down on Friday?” I asked. I was eight and it was summer, a Sunday night. The weekend was over and my father would be leaving the shore in the morning to return to work. My childhood summers in Lavallette were carefree and our house on Guyer Avenue that year was just a few houses from the beach. I lived the days that stretched through July and August swimming and sailing and without a care. I only thought about boats, and the ocean and the beach. I didn’t think about school. I didn’t know about work.
“One Friday night, I’ll bring you a toy,” he told me. That was wonderful news! “Is there any particular toy you want?”
“Fun Flowers!” I yelled. I had wanted Fun Flowers ever since I’d seen the commercial. I had dreamed about creating the hundreds of plastic flowers shown on the box, of squirting colorful goo into metal molds and heating up the molds until the goo gelled into fantastic flowery shapes.
“Fun Flowers?” he asked. I’m sure he had never heard of them. “Okay, sounds like fun. I’ll see if I can get them.”
In my bed on the upstairs porch, I could hear the ocean every night before I fell asleep, but on that night I could only hear my father’s promise from that evening. And I thought of nothing else for the next week. I was sure Dad would arrive that Friday night with a big box under his arm. I was sure it would be the first thing he brought out of his car. The days dragged. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. When Thursday came, I thought, “One more day until Fun Flowers!” Then it was Friday. I thought about my toy all day. “I’m getting Fun Flowers!” I told my mother. “Dad’s bringing them down tonight.”
My father arrived and I ran to his car. “Did you get the Fun Flowers, Dad?” I asked, excited and bouncing. If I had been old enough to notice, I’m sure I would have seen a week of work etched in his face, but I was not thinking of that. “I’m sorry, honey, I didn’t get a chance to get to the store yet,” he answered. At first I couldn’t hear his words. I didn’t see the box and I looked in the car, sure it was on his front seat. I was so sure he would have them. Then I stopped and I knew. “Oh, okay,” I said. I think my father saw my face change. “I’ll try next week, Sweet Pea, okay?” he asked. “Sure, okay,” I answered.
I don’t know if I made him feel bad that night, guilty the way a child can do. I don’t remember if I looked disappointed, if I acted like a spoiled child. I didn’t notice if he was tired, if he had been busy that week. I could only think of myself that night.
The next Friday night, Dad came down and under his arm was the big box. “Here you go Sweetie,” he laughed. I raced to him and he gave me the box. “Thanks Dad!” I was thrilled! It was just like the box in the commercial, with a girl like me on the front, surrounded by the beautiful flowers she had made. I ripped open the box and got right to work.
My father could have told me that first Friday night that I would just have to wait. He could have said it that way, the way I have sometimes spoken to my own children. He could have told me about how busy he was at work and how he just didn’t have time. But he didn’t. He kept that part from me and he fixed my small spoiled hurt with the big box under his arm.