If you tracked my random lapses back to my early classroom years, Mrs. Pastorini and Mrs. O'Grady and all the rest...they all had the same thing to say, 'Lacks focus...a hopeless daydreamer. Hard to keep her on track.' My poor dad always had to listen to that. But no matter what, he always believed in me. He encouraged me with his words and pointed me in the direction of my dreams.
At night, I'd race upstairs, hop into a warm bath and slip into my flannel jammies and wait. Sometimes I'd wait a good half hour lost in my little girl thoughts. My dad and his nighttime stories was what I was waiting for. When the waiting grew long, I'd hop out of bed, kneel up on my low window sill. I'd stare out at the moon and the stars and listen to the crickets below.
I'd think about how when I grew up I would have a little girl, and that little girl would have a horse she could ride every day. I'd think about making her grilled cheese sandwiches and pink lemonade. And I'd think about how some day I'd be a teacher, and I'd stand in front of a class and tell kids all kinds of stories, and how I'd teach them to paint and draw and write letters and words in their books.
And then, my waiting would end...and I'd hear my daddy's uneven footsteps on the stairs. My heart would just about beat outside of my chest. When he got to the landing, he'd say, "Is there a little girl waiting in there?"
I'd scurry under the covers, and bury myself deep underneath. I'd stifle the giggles and keep myself as quiet as a bug. My dad would come in and feel around on top of the covers...and then I'd just burst. There was no way I could keep it all in. He'd sit down on the bed and tell me his stories...of horses and fairies and places far, far away. He'd let me kneel up and feel his starchy collar and sniff his sharp-smelling cologne. I'd pull the pens out of his pocket and click the points in and then out. And when our time was up and the storytelling was done, he'd tuck me in and pull the covers up under my chin. And I'd look into his eyes and wait. He'd get this little sideways half-serious grin on his face.
"So let me see now...who is the prettiest girl this side of the moon tonight?" My dad's brogue was thick...but hardly noticeable at that time to me.
"Just this side of the moon?" I'd say.
And of course, he'd rub his chin and uncross his leg. He'd shake his head and string me along.
"Well," he'd say, "I guess...I'd have to say the other side of the moon to be fair."
And then I'd play my part, "Well, me, of course!"
He'd wrap his arms around me and pull me in, and say..."Well, we knew that all along."
And then he'd be gone, down the stairs, taking them one at a time, until I couldn't hear him anymore, and I was left in the dark with my dreams...the horses and lemonade and pictures and notebooks filled with letters and words.
And today? There are no horses, but there have been babies and grilled cheese and lemonade. I've been telling my stories and teaching kids to understand the letters and words inside books. I've filled up notebooks upon notebooks with my own words and stories, too. And I've just about finished another manuscript. And I still have so, so many hopes and dreams.
I may not be the prettiest girl this side of the moon for real...my dad, after all, had a very prejudiced eye! But I do love to tell stories just like him. And because his belief in me was so very strong...I've held onto those well-imagined dreams!