Tag Archives: dresses

A Tomboy and a Dad

Hannah at the Who
Hannah at the Who

When my middle child, Hannah, was born, there’s no doubting the fact that she was almost like the son we’d never had.  She was persnickety.  She hated having her hair braided, bowed, cut, or even tampered with in any way shape or form.  Hannah hated being held unless it was by her mother . . . and her mother alone.  It’s funny, too, because when she was hurt she’d run straight to me – and I wasn’t the pharmacist or medical expert in the family – only to return to her mother after she felt better.  The only thing missing was the proverbial sticking out of her tongue at me to signify that I was good for what was necessary and that’s all.

After her mother passed away just about 2 1/2 years ago, Hannah got a lot closer to me.  Don’t get me wrong, as she got older she sat on my lap and hugged me and all that.  Still . . . she fought me at every turn.  The only times she’d calm down – and I’m not kidding – was when I’d hold her as a baby or toddler and sing Desperado by the Eagles to her.  The song and its cadence along with the simplicity, I suppose, just made her relax.  She actually liked it so I sang it whenever she was crying or whenever she asked.  It was a good opportunity to get closer to her in any way I could.

Today, though, the tomboy returned.  I had to take her brothers shopping for suits and ties and everything they needed for a funeral.  I needed a new white dress shirt . . . and I asked Hannah what she needed.

“I already have black pants and a blazer but I can’t find my dress shirt,” she informed me.
“You mean blouse?” I corrected her.
“Sure, Dad, my blouse.  I don’t know what happened to it.  Did you take it, or one of the boys?”

Now the only way I get her clothes is if, by some miracle from above, she puts them in the laundry when they’re actually dirty.  (Sometimes when they’re not and she’s “cleaning” her room)  Then came the blame that it ended up in the boys’ room.  After that, it was just one thing after another.

I found a pretty blouse that made her grouse in the store.
“It had this weird hole in the back,” she informed me.
“You mean it was ripped?”
“No, it had this weird hole, like a circle.”
I stared at her, informing her, as politely as I could, that women’s clothing have things like that.  The back would button shut but there’s a little loop that exists that is also like a decoration.  Not everything is a comfy old t-shirt.

“Okay,” I informed her, “we’ll get this one, a white blouse that would go well under a black blazer with pants.”

Bear in mind that this is for her grandmother’s funeral and she’s giving a reading at the church.

“Your blazer is a nice one, right?  Pants too?”  I got the obligatory eye-roll after I said this.
“Yes, Dad, I have nice stuff.  The sleeves I usually roll up but I will put them down and it looks nice!”  That should have been my first clue.

When we got home I had her try on her outfit.  It was too late to go back out, by the way, and after she came out and showed me . . . she was sloppy to say the least.
“You can’t wear that,” I informed her.  “That would work for school, or a speech tournament, but not a funeral.”  Her blouse was too casual (my fault) and the blazer was like a sweatshirt material.  The pants were the only workable item.
“Yeah, I kinda thought so,” she informed me.
“You know, Hannah, you should probably wear a dress.”
Her eyes already narrowed and she started to formulate her redress of her father.
“I know,” I told her, “that it’s not fair.  Women should wear what they want, guys wear whatever, whole nine yards, but it’s your grandma’s funeral.  You should dress nice.”
“Daaaad!” She said it in her best teenage timbre.  “I’m a tomboy, and no offense, but you’re a guy.  You’re not Mom or Abbi.  You know how hard it is to find a dress with a guy?!”
I stared at her, calmed myself, and then asked: “who helped your sister find her homecoming dress?”
“you.”
“How long do you remember I was married to your Mom?”
“18 years.”
“I started, Hannah, by telling your Mom she looked good in everything.  Then the one time I was wrong she never forgave me.  From that point on I told her if something looked bad.  You’re built almost exactly like your Mom was when she was your age, so I know what stuff looked like on her.  I’m not going to make you wear something that looks bad.”
“I know, but . . . ”
“Hannah, I went to the Emmy awards, and you know what?  I hate ties and stiff shoes and being uncomfortable, just like you, but I wore a tux.  Sometimes it’s good and builds up your confidence if you dress up and look nice.  It certainly helped me.”
“Dad, this is a funeral!”  She had a point.
“I’m not trying to make you sexy, Hannah.  I’m trying to make you presentable for the occasion.  I know this sounds weird coming from your Dad, but a basic, pretty, nice black dress is a staple.  Not a trendy black dress.  Not a sexy black dress.  I mean a nice, standard, Audrey Hepburn, “every girl should have a little black dress” black dress.  I may not be a fashion designer, but I know what looks nice and I know what will look nice on you!”

She looked at me and resigned herself to the fact that tomorrow after work we’re shopping.  Sometimes being the only parent isn’t just victim of others’ stereotypes it’s your own children’s . . . or yours.  I don’t pretend to know if something’s amazing, but I know the basics.  That’s what she needs: a nice, simple, black dress that she can keep and wear when she needs it.

By the evening’s end she had calmed down.  She actually referenced the song up above: Desperado.
“Did you ever play it on the guitar for us,” she asked?  I hadn’t.  I always had one of them in my arms, her, Abbi, the boys . . . no free arms.

Then Hannah informed me she’d learned it.
“I love that song.  I always remember that you sang it to me.  So I learned it.”
We spent the rest of the evening on the floor of the office with her showing me and by the night’s end we were singing it together, playing it, and she was the happy, smiling little girl on my lap again.

She’s a tomboy . . . and I’m still her Dad.

 

Haircuts and Homecoming Dresses

Noah after haircut

This could have been a disastrous weekend.  All the signs were there . . . Abbi had to “share” at some sort of bizarre drama ritual for Seniors at her high school musical.  Some sort of cathartic, circle of life ceremony involving crying hormonal teenagers and Mountain Dew.  Even I don’t really get the whole thing.  Sadly, for my daughter, she developed my disregard for these kinds of rituals and ritualistic “sharing” of emotions . . . particularly when these kids will wake up tomorrow morning and, well, see each other in the hallways for the next six months.

This is a totally different set of circumstances from a year ago, when Abbi was brand new to the school, wanted desperately to go to the Homecoming dance, and didn’t get asked.  This year, about a week ago, Abbi walked in and was grinning, telling me how she’d been asked to Homecoming and how happy she was about it.  We dealt with the fact she didn’t want to wear the fancy dress she already owned for the dance, that was being saved for Prom.  So I volunteered that we’d go to the mall on Sunday, after her last show, and get her a new dress.

But before all that . . . my two sons were obsessed with getting haircuts.  The problem was, between my working, the tight budget, and the fact that I was wanting to see how they would look with their hair just a little longer . . . I let their hair grow out.  Now, they’re not surfer dudes, they don’t have bleach blonde hair and their hair isn’t below their collar.  One of their teachers keeps asking if they’re ever going to get their hair cut, stressing out the boys and – to be honest – ticking me off.  They’re not in violation of the student rules so what’s the problem here?

But when their hair got unruly it was time to give in and get it cut, so the three of us got haircuts – same day as the dress excursion.  Noah was first, and through the process I heard him give the entire dissertation into our family challenges.  We decorated for Halloween.  Dad loves Christmas.  Sure, he tells the gal cutting his hair, we get a real tree every year.  But there’s no sap that I saw on it getting all sticky.
“That’s because it all got on me bringing the tree in the house,” was my response.
Then he tells how the tree fell over on the way out the door and got water everywhere, and I held my breath at the gal’s response.
“Your Mom must have been pretty upset about that, huh?”

There was a pause, just the briefest of ones . . .

“Umm . . . our Mom died last year,” was the response from Noah.

I heard the woman cutting my hair go “oh, my.  Oh my goodness,” but nothing more.

Then Noah just continued with the story.  “My Dad cleaned it up, but there were needles everywhere!”

I was very proud of him, sure, but there’s something good about seeing the kids treat this as a fact of life.  Noah could have broken down, sure, but he just accepts that this is our life now.  No, Mom’s not here, and there’s a lot that is missing as a result, sure,  But we are bent, not broken, and life seems to be going forward.  We are doing more, feeling better, and life is just that.  Life.

Hannah did, in a brief moment, have a discussion with the boys about what you’d do with 3 wishes . . . and like she’s done before, she says she’d wish for Mom to come back.  I was actually torn by this.  If there was a genie who came to me with that option would I ask for the same thing?  Would I be able to let her walk in, with our lives so different now, nearly two years later?

The last event of the weekend was getting a dress for Abbi.  It’s not an easy thing for me, seeing grown up dresses and having your little girl – that tiny person with the pig tails when she would hold my hand when she walked – look . . . beautiful.  We spent time in several stores – not realizing that in Sacramento, on Sunday, the mall closes at 7pm.  Her show had ended at 5pm and we were 40 minutes away from the mall.

By the way, want to feel old as a parent?  Go into a store like H&M and see how totally unequipped you are to wear the clothing that they’re selling.  Even if I lost 50 pounds I don’t think people would take me seriously in the trendy clothes in the store.

After trudging through the disorganized, random clothing – put willy-nilly in whatever rack they could find – in H&M and another boutique store, I mentioned heading inside Nordstrom, just as a last resort.  All through the store – though many were expensive – there were all these vintage looking dresses, like modern craftsmanship met Boardwalk Empire, and she was in love.  We walked along, finding several, and Abbi worrying about the cost because of where we were.  What she hadn’t realized was that I’d anticipated paying for this dress . . . and being a guy I had over-estimated what it would cost.

She walked into the changing room as the lights started to dim in the store, the distorted announcement grumbling throughout the speakers in the store announcing that they were closing.  Abbi walked out and asked what I thought of one dress, greenish bead work all over it, flaring out in the bottom.
“You look gorgeous, Abbi.  That’s really cute.”
“Really?” she said, the smile obvious in her interrogative.
“Absolutely.”
“It’s so expensive.”
It really wasn’t, not for what I’d budgeted . . . and not for the smile she gave me.
“Your birthday’s this weekend.  Happy birthday, Snuggle.”

Part of the dress…you didn’t think I’d give it away before the date, did you?

Then it happened . . . just as she started to walk back into the room to change out of the dress, I saw her do it . . . she twirled the flared bottom of the dress, back and forth as she walked, just like she had when she was little.  The little, happy girl peeking through the teenager once more.

We could have had such a hard time this weekend.  Instead, the kids have proven to me that we’re doing okay.

 

Leave the World a Bit Better…

Lonely Boy by The Black Keys from their LP El Camino

20120113-104448.jpg
Those Damn Cookies I Had to Make!

I was in a mad dash scramble tonight from the moment I entered the door. It also came after a day when one interview cancelled and I was running around crazy, so my mood had not been particularly pleasant. I hadn’t even taken my coat off and standing above me, looking through the banister, was Sam hollering “can we go to the school’s International Passport night? We get a free dress pass tomorrow if we do!”

If I hadn’t needed to eliminate a load of wash for the evening I wouldn’t have even considered it. On top of scrambling to fry a bunch of burgers and cook fries for dinner, I had to head to the grocery store to get the ingredients for a recipe of Persian cookies that I’d volunteered to make for “International Meal” at Hannah’s class tomorrow. I stood there, wool P-coat still around my shoulders, looking into the kitchen, out the front door, and still hadn’t put my briefcase down from the work day. You know what happened next, I was doomed.

But the stress didn’t end. First, Hannah informs me that there are more than 30 kids in her class alone, therefore I have to make 3 dozen cookies. I’m running around realizing I don’t have hamburger buns. The kids are all shouting that they want to go because it starts at 6:30 and I haven’t even half finished with the dinner yet . . . and I suddenly realize the “lesson” I’ve been trying to teach Hannah about not doing her chores has backfired. Not only is there no room at the table, the entire kitchen is a mess. The more I clean the angrier I get, and I was already angry.

Little did I know that the dreaded and well-known Manoucheri curse was going to rear its ugly head soon.

We all went to the evening, running into parents I hadn’t seen and walking through the chaos of the gymnasium filled with maps, games, foods, all of it from around the world. It was a little bit of pride that took me when the kids had to put dots on where they were born and we had two separate states, neither of them California, and the people around looked like we’d just landed here in our shuttle craft from the Martian mother ship. (not the parent running the booth or the teachers, but there is a contingent and pervasive mentality that if you’re here in California why would you ever want to leave?) But seeing the map, the little dots on Keller/Ft. Worth, Texas and then Omaha, Nebraska, I didn’t just think about the fact they were born there, there’s a flash of memories that rush through your brain. You get overwhelmed with memories.

Noah is still processing the latest string of emotions that hit all of us, I think. He didn’t want to go to the International Night because he was worried he’d get lost in the mass of people and not be able to find me, a fear that he’s gotten in just the last couple months. A fear that I can only help him to face, but he’ll have to tackle it at some point and I can only help him get the tools, I can’t face it for him.
“Will you stay with me when we go to the tables?” he asked more pleading than anything else.
“Of course, Monkey, I’ll be right next to you. Don’t worry.”

It wasn’t painful, it was fairly easy and we saw friends who make us smile. I loaded everyone up, now hopped up on lemonade and sugar cookies and went to Safeway. I went in to get cookie ingredients and Noah got out and came along with me, leaving the other 3 kids in the car. He reached up, put his hand in mine, and quietly said “I love you, Daddy.”

It melted some of the stress.
“Love you too, Monkey. Very much.”

It was the drive home that was hard. Abbi nearly lost it. Yesterday I bought tickets to see the band “The Black Keys” during a presale for registered users of the band’s website, and since I’d gotten their latest album on presale for Abbi for her birthday they gave me a password to order tickets early. I’d gotten three, one for me and the girls, who love the band. On the way home, her friend had informed her, after her very short period of bliss, that the concert was on the same night as the Prom. The Prom which Santa had gotten a very expensive, very nice designer dress that was an insane amount of stress and difficulty for both me and the re-suited fat man!

“Maybe I’ll just skip the prom. Nobody’s going to ask me anyway, and I want to see the Black Keys!” was her response. I looked at her and had to say something.
“You know, I can’t say for certain that the Black Keys will be around in 20 years, but I can say that if you skip the prom, you’ll have to deal with that forever.”

Her response is one I’ve heard and told myself countless times. “I won’t get asked” or “I’m always second in everyone’s mind” or “I’m a good friend but they never think of me as a date” all things I don’t agree with, but what can I say? I was the same way. All I could say was how, even in my youth, when I was shy, quiet, lacking self-confidence, I asked a girl to the prom. I never took a date to Homecoming, Sweetheart, none of the other dances. I always went, but I never took a date. The Prom . . . prom was different.

You have to understand why this was such a big deal for me. I’ve recounted before how I couldn’t ask a girl out easily. I had paralyzing fear and shyness. I’d dial 6 numbers and never get to the 7th. I’d ask then panic wondering how I could have gotten myself into the situation. I think they were going out with me because they felt sorry for me. None of these things were true, at least I don’t think, but I thought them nonetheless. But I overcame that, just long enough, to ask a girl I had a crush on to the prom. I rented a tuxedo, talked with friends about what they were doing, and then asked, quite unsuccessfully, my father if I might drive the convertible to the dance. (I knew the answer, but hey, you gotta ask!) I may have been an outsider, so to speak, but even I asked a girl to the prom. Me, the geeky, lanky, shy boy. Abbi’s none of those things. She’s outgoing, happy, funny, and smart. One of the good things, I thought, of going to this public school was that she’d get to have a social life and interaction with boys, much as that bothers me as a Dad. She gets a taste of real life, to live her own John Hughes film.

The boys then asked the question that started the philosophical thinking in my head: “did you know mommy when you asked this girl to the dance, Daddy?” Of course, I didn’t. I lived in Nebraska, Andrea grew up in California, we were literally a world apart. I was in a small town she was in Sacramento, a large town trying to act small.
“What happened at that dance, Daddy?” I couldn’t lie. Sure, I got the courage to ask someone to the dance. Didn’t change that I was still shy, geeky, lanky, and not the most confident of people. Not the shining moment that I would have hoped, but I went. I asked someone, and good or bad memory (it’s not all bad, take it from me) I went.

Then they asked what I’d been thinking: “but Mommy didn’t have a bad time when she went out with you?”
“No, she saw something inside me, something I don’t know I even saw myself, kiddo.”
“So what did she do?”
“She was you Mom, guys. She showed me who I could be. She didn’t let me be shy. She was tall, beautiful, and funny.” Abbi looked my way and saw I’d noticed and she turned away. The boys asked . . . “so is that why you married her, Dad, and not that other girl?”

“I don’t know that marrying anyone else was ever on my mind, kiddo. I loved your Mom, and she loved me…all of me, she didn’t even see the things I worried about, she just blew past them and brought me up next to her. It’s like she’d known me all along, even if I didn’t know the person she saw, she let me be who I’d always wanted to be. She saw who I really was . . . even if I didn’t…”

I could feel my eyes welling up and I was glad it was dark.
” …and I miss her. I miss her a whole lot.”

When I got home the reminiscence didn’t stop. Abbi was still horrified at her luck of losing the concert to the prom. So I solved the problem. I got tickets to the show the night before, with the little I had saved for new pickups for my guitar. I told her to find kids who would want the Sacramento tickets, the presale for Oakland hadn’t ended and we got tickets for there instead.

“Mom always said that you were the best at solving problems,” Abbi told me. Andrea did used to say that. She thought I should have been an ER doctor, or some other high-stress job because she always thought I thrived on the problems and coming up with ways around them. She’d once said that if we’d had to fight on the battlefield that she knows I’d be more like the guy who took the reigns when the Colonel was killed and got his men out of harm’s way. I still feel like I’d reverted to being the kid who barely asked the girl to the Prom.

While I made the cookies for school the next day, running the dishwasher full of old dishes Hannah had neglected, I had the TV on to a random channel. On it, a person brought up a very old saying: “the main thing is to leave this world a little better than when you entered it.” It’s a saying I’ve heard before, one that I always liked, but it really made me think.

There’s the what-ifs . . . how many more amazing things could this beautiful woman have accomplished in her time? What more could I have expected from just being in her sphere of influence? I don’t lie when I say I am the man I am today because of her. Then I started to think about everything.

When we met, I was a technical guy. I did the occasional reporting, but more than anything I was a photographer, nothing more. Now, I’m an investigative journalist. I’ve won awards, I’ve met world leaders, I’ve seen amazing things. I would never have done any of it, I wouldn’t be the writer I am today, if not for the woman who never bothered to look at me as less than I was. She just saw . . . me. I so wish I could have seen what more she would have done, what she would have given the world. The Alzheimers drugs she’d helped research in school. The lives she might have saved catching drug interactions. The materials she might have written in some sort of drug research.

But in the end, she did leave the world better than when she found it. At least my world. I’m here, today, writing and solving the “Manoucheri curse” yet again because she showed me I could.

When I came up to start writing I checked my Facebook page and saw my daughter had posted a message:
“Who has the best Dad in the world?! I do!!!!”
Really, that’s all I needed. She’s more like her Mom than she ever realized.