“My father didn’t tell me how to live. He lived and let me watch him do it.” – Clarence Buddington Kelland
I am a Daddy’s girl. It is a claim that I unabashedly, unequivocally, unashamedly make. While I loved and idolized my late mother, I absolutely ADORE my Daddy. It’s been that way since, well, FOREVER. I can trace it back to when I first learned to spell my bologna’s first name, whenever THAT was.
My first memories of my Daddy are vivid. He appeared as tall as the trees that lined my neighborhood block; a street that was filled with manicured houses stationed in front of manicured lawns that framed homes that were run by mothers with manicured nails.
My Daddy was a giant among men, not only because of his physical stature, but his matching big, friendly personality. He looked like a sandy beach, his long limbs paired with hair, eyes and skin that were the color of Ritz crackers. He often greeted me with a toothy, boyish grin so wide that it looked to me like the corners of his lips touched the bottom of both of his earlobes.
Daddy was smart too. He used words and phrases that regularly met at the intersection of Black nationalism and southern hospitality, before walking lockstep to the bench where Marxist ideological tenets often sat. I remember being a little girl, all pigtails and pleats, who sat at my Daddy’s knees absorbing everything he was talking about, even though I rarely understood any of it. Not yet. That would come later. Back then, I just looked up at him and wondered how he got to be so tall.
One childhood memory stands out. I must have been about three-years old.
Daddy, Daddy, DAAAAAADDDD-Y !
“Let me see what you’ve got there, baby.”
“Lemma SHOW you!” I shrieked with delight. I was so elated, I felt like the fizz on top of a recently shaken can of soda.
Feeling Daddy’s eyes fixated on me, I was ready to show off. I braced myself, took a step forward, and kicked my right leg high into the air, while my bobby-sock clad ankle peeked out from the top of a freshly-tied gym shoe.
Before Daddy could respond, I brought my foot down, did a James Brown spin and popped my LEFT leg in the air in the same manner.
“I can tie my shoe. I can tie my shoe! I tied BOTH of my SHOE!”
In my self-absorbed state, I neglected to get my bearings the second time. This caused me to wobble violently after my second leg came down. There I was in the middle of our living room floor, my flailed arms and legs reminiscent of the letter X as I teetered on the edge of a major crash. But there was Daddy, right there, outstretched arm ready to catch me if I fell. I didn’t fall. Daddy wasn’t having that.
“Let’s play a game,” Daddy said, once he made sure I could still stand upright.
I gladly obliged and anxiously awaited to hear what he had in mind. Daddy always played the best games.
“We’re going to look for that missing letter ‘S’ that seems to have fallen off the end of your sentence, every time you show me your feet.”
“Huhhhh? I don’t understand.”
You need to say you know how to tie your SHOES, not shoe. Shoes means two or both. Do you understand now?”
“Ok, so let’s hurry up and find that letter ‘S’ so you won’t trip and fall over it!”
I burst into another fit of giggles.
“Oh Daddy, You’re so SILLY! I’m not going on any TRIPS! I got BOTH of my feet tied up in my SHOES, remember?” With that declaration, I ran off, leaving Daddy standing there with a look of bemused defeat, as he realized his linguistic lesson had NOT landed in quite the way intended.
That was the thing about my Daddy. He was always there to offer gentle support and guidance, as I moved from toddler to a teen, between the ages of Barbie dolls and boys. He and my mother locked arms in foreboding the former in our house, because in the 1970’s there were no Black Barbies. Daddy banned the boys himself.
In her article, 25 things about being a “Daddy’s Girl,” Cossette Jarrett identifies a myriad of ways that being a Daddy’s girl is special. I picked my favorite ten things about being a Daddy’s Girl for this column:
#1 YOU CAN DO NO WRONG
#2 YOU’RE NEVER WITHOUT A BESTIE
#3 YOU’VE GOT AN HONEST OPINION—He many not always tell you what you want to hear, but what you hear is what you need to be told
#4 YOU HAVE A COOL NICKNAME NO ONE ELSE CAN CALL YOU
#5 YOU EXPERIENCED AN AWESOME CHILDHOOD
#6 YOU ALWAYS HAVE A GOOD FRIEND WHO KNOWS HOW TO CHEER YOU UP
#7 YOU’VE GOT THE BIGGEST FAN SECTION AT ANY EVENT
#8 HAVING A MAN IS A PLUS, NOT A MUST
#9 A GOOD EXAMPLE IS NEVER FAR FROM SIGHT
#10 YOUR BOND IS UNBREAKABLE
Happy Father’s Day to ALL the Daddy’s out there, particularly those who give special attention to their daughters. Behind every great daughter is a truly amazing Daddy who spoils her.
Shanita Baraka Akintonde is an associate professor at Columbia College Chicago. She is also President and Chief Visionary Officer of Creative Notions Group, a professional speaking and consulting company. Professor Akintonde will release two books, Hear Me ROARR and The Heart of a Leader in 2018. She’s for hire to inspire and will gladly share her rates for each of her uniquely crafted workshops, keynote addresses and/or seminars. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her @SHAKINTONDE and http://www.linkedin.com/in/shanitaakintonde/