When she was little . . . and I do mean tiny, little, toddler of a kid, my daughter Abbi was all there was in the house. We lived in a tiny little place, an old Craftsman home on 50th street in Omaha, Nebraska. You may have no idea what a Craftsman home is, but the name actually does give it all away. Craftsman is a Sears brand. It’s more well-known now for being maker of unbelievably good tools with a lifetime warranty. That wasn’t always the case, though.
Craftsman homes were just that: homes you could buy out of the Sears and Roebuck catalog. There were usually a few different styles, a few different sizes, and you ordered it. The lumber, blueprints, and instructions arrived on the train and you picked up the pieces of your home like a giant’s box of Tinkertoys. Our home was one such, a small 2-bedroom place that we knew was a Craftsman because it had markings on the floor joists, visible from the basement.
At this time I worked for the NBC station in Omaha and had a screwy schedule that had some nights and every Saturday. My days off were Sunday and Monday. Even when they made me a photographer/producer and I was putting stories together and writing them they wouldn’t shift me from that weekend shift. I complained, I moaned, but in secret I didn’t really try that hard to get off the shift.
Mondays, you see, were Abbi/Daddy day. Every Monday was an adventure, just for the two of us. Abbi and I would do something, usually nothing big, but to a little tiny girl of 2 and 3 and 4 . . . that was adventure. We went to Omaha’s Memorial Park and flew a kite. We walked to the park – not the one by our house but a bigger one farther away. We visited her mother, while on rotations, at the pharmacy in the old, classy Dundee area of town. We went to Leahy Mall and fed the ducks on the pond and went down the big, permanent slides installed there.
Inevitably we ended up at what is no longer the amazing ice-cream parlor in Omaha’s Old Market call Ted and Wally’s. Abbi would get vanilla ice-cream in a cone…I would get malted milk flavor or butterscotch or something rich and delightful. They made their waffle cones by hand and you could see the waffle irons and smell them cooking in the building as you walked in. It was amazing and we went there almost every Monday. It was our routine.
Today my other 3 kids left the house to spend summer in Nebraska with my folks. It’s a necessary migration as I have to work over the summer and cannot do so with nobody to watch the kids. I wish they didn’t have to but they do and it’s an amazingly kind thing of my parents to do. Watching 3 kids after you’ve already raised 3 of your own is no small gift and they’ve done it with no complaints and assumed the mantle of duty like it’s part of daily life. I got updates via text all day about where they ate; the salt devils (rather than dust devils) spouting up from the winds on the salt flats; and where they stopped for the night. It was a long day and my kids got out and ran outside the motel over and over and over again to burn off energy they were storing up in the car.
That left Abbi and I in the house, alone, tonight. I got home, and though I hadn’t planned it . . . we went to eat, just the two of us . . . like an Abbi/Daddy day all over again. We had spaghetti; we drank iced-tea; we had long conversations – more mature, sure, than the ones when she was 4, but you know what? I always thought the conversations that tiny little girl had with me were amazing. She saw the world in such wondrous ways and thought the things around her were amazing. She asked a million questions.
When we walked or drove in the car or did anything, Abbi would sing. She always had a tune in her head. She sang, hummed, babbled, all of it on-key and all of it brilliant. Her grandfather on her mother’s side used to go nuts because Abbi would always sing. Her teachers would chastise her because she’d sing as she took a test…unaware she was doing it.
Tonight we ate, drove home, had amazing little cupcakes for dessert and watched How to Steal a Million with Audrey Hepburn in it. On the way up the stairs to go to bed I heard it: Abbi was singing again…an old Doobie Brothers song, just like when she was little. People marveled at how she sang Black Water from their ’70s record at the age of 4, but she did it. Tonight I was smiling, knowing that part of me was a bit sad the other kids were gone, but loving every minute of one of my last Abbi/Daddy days like a blast from the past.