Dear J, the next few weeks were busy getting the nursery ready. I’ll admit, as I have in the past, that I had no clue what I was doing. I mean, why does one lamp go with the room while another that looks really similar to it doesn’t?
Leela realized this deficiency in me fairly quickly and so I was relegated to assembly duty. Knowing my past with fixing things (such as sinks), you may think this was not a wise decision. Oh, how right you were!
The crib wasn’t so difficult, but the directions that came with the changing table had me scratching my head. Once I had it put together, I had parts left over and that is never a good sign. To make matters more embarrassing, Leela kept asking me if I knew what I was doing.
“Of course,” I told her with a fake but easy smile. “Piece of cake.”
“Okay,” she said with a doubtful look in her eye, “because I heard you swearing.”
I’ve got to watch that, I guess. Especially since I’ll have little ears around me again, studying everything I do and say. These days, I kept finding myself hoping I’d be a good dad to this one. At times, I even thought I’d been one with Blue, but her recent moody behavior had me kind of doubting my capabilities.
Leela, on the other hand, seemed to not be concerned at all. I really hope this kid will be like her; strong, independent, confident. I probably seem confident, too, and I guess I am to an extent. But I still remember a time when I needed sixty thousand people a night cheering me on and stroking my ego. Remember when I thought that was all I was worth? Compared to then, I can definitely see improvements. But what I really want is for my baby to have Leela-confidence.
“Great!” Leela enthused as she looked the changing table over and then turned back to me. If she thought this was great, I sure wasn’t going to tell her there were parts left over! Hopefully, the whole business wouldn’t fall apart. “Now you can assemble the other dresser.”
My first reaction to her instruction was an inward groan, however, I stopped myself as she looked around the room with anticipation in her beautiful amber eyes. Watching her fired up the anticipation in me until I was all smiles, too.
“I’ll help you, Dad,” Ruby offered.
In situations like these, Ruby was my lifeline. That girl could fix anything and put anything together. She was a spacial thinker that could just look at something difficult and automatically see how it all fit together. Every time I passed the bookstore, I’d pick up a puzzle for her to put together. She delighted in them and had them together so quickly, she was often longing for the next one before I’d been out again.
“Thank goodness!” I exclaimed with a grin.
“Hmmm… this rug is all wrong,” Leela said as she frowned at it.
“I’m more worried about the french doors leading to the balcony,” I said.
“That’s easy to take care of,” Ruby said. “What I can’t figure out, is why do we need so many baby monitors?”
“Don’t look at me,” Leela said. “That’s your dad right there. He’s afraid the baby won’t be heard.”
Smiling sheepishly, my face warm with redness, I had to admit that we had a lot of monitors. The entire dresser top was covered in them because I’d been testing each one to make certain they all worked.
“Oh, he or she won’t have to cry very much,” Ruby said, and I could tell in her voice that she was smiling. “Right, Blue?”
“Yeah, whatever.” And I could tell Blue wasn’t even close to smiling.
“I have a paper to write,” she said sullenly.
Sighing, I said, “What’s gotten in to her?”
Nothing could bring Leela down. “She’ll be fine. This is going to take a lot of adjustment for all of us. We just have to show Blue that we still love her just as much as we always have.”
“Mom, Dad…” Ruby’s voice trailed off and she looked really uncertain as to whether she should continue.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Well, I have kind of this weird feeling.”
“What do you mean? It’s okay, just tell us, honey,” Leela said.
“I have a feeling Blue isn’t going to tell you about the award. She hasn’t, has she?”
Like a dummy, I shook my head. Blue was getting an award? And I didn’t even know about it? Where had I been?
“What award?” Leela asked. It made me feel only slightly better that she didn’t know either.
“It’s nearing the end of the year and Blue got an award for Awesome Attitude. The assembly to receive the awards is only a few days away and she still hasn’t told you anything about it.”
“Did you win an award, too?” I asked.
Ruby shook her head, the small smile never leaving her face. “No, I never win those things. It’s okay, though, because I got really good grades and I’m proud of that.”
“Well, you should be proud of that. I know we both are,” I said.
Later that evening, while Ruby and I were working on the dresser, Leela decided she needed a break. There was a lot to do, but I was glad to see her taking it easy for once.
When we were finished, I was not only pleased that there weren’t any parts left over, I was happy to see Leela had fallen asleep on the couch in the family room. To my dismay, as I came closer to put a blanket over her, she woke up.
I put my arm around her as I sat down, and she leaned in to me. There was so much I loved about being in a relationship with her, but this was near the top of the list. She really liked to sit, cuddle and talk. It didn’t really matter what we spoke about, it was just nice to know she was there and cared about me.
That night, we talked about Blue and the fact that she hadn’t told us about this award thing she was supposed to get. After much consideration, we decided not to bring it up right away. The reward ceremony was still a few days away and maybe she’d just forgotten.
Somehow, I didn’t think that was likely. It made more sense to me that she just didn’t really care about it, so didn’t want to make a big deal. Ever since she was little, she was on the shy side.
Our conversation turned to the baby, how we would raise him or her, what he or she should be called, and things like that.
For the first time since I’d known her, Leela told me she was concerned about how much weight she was gaining.
“I’m so big now,” she complained.
“Don’t you realize by now how attractive you are when you’re pregnant? I think you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”
Leela smiled and I saw the confidence that I so loved come back into her expression.
You may have noticed (or not) that I skimmed over my birthday. There was so much going on that I didn’t want Leela to have to throw a party or anything. She was so tired lately, so there was no way I’d let her do something so taxing to her strength as that.
As a gift, my girls got me a package at the spa. I haven’t really been much of one to do something like that. I think the last time I went to a spa was with Aunt Keniesha all those years ago when I had my teen to young adult makeover.
The women in this family decided it was high time I went back and had another makeover. Something to fit my age, Blue said. Ouch. In all fairness to my daughter, though, not untrue.
My birthday happened to fall on the day of the reward ceremony, so when I was done at the spa, I decided to pick Blue up from school and see what was going on with her. She still hadn’t officially told us about this.
Ruby was the first to come out and I hugged her, then sent her on her way. She skipped to the parking lot and waved as she drove by.
“Why are you here?” Blue asked, disappointment clouding her eyes.
“I wanted to spend some time with you, that’s all. I thought I’d take you out for a bite to eat before the ceremony tonight.”
“Who told you about that?” she demanded. Then, through a clenched jaw, she said, “Ruby!”
“Don’t be mad at her,” I said. “Why is it she told us and not you?”
“Because it’s stupid and I’m not going.”
“Well, I don’t think it’s stupid. I’m really proud that you got an award.”
Rolling her eyes and shifting her weight impatiently to the other foot, she said, “It is the stupidest thing ever and I refuse to go and make a fool of myself in front of the whole school and their families.”
Her determination not to go was written all over her angry face. With lips pursed into an unhappy frown and hands clenched tightly at her sides, she stared at her feet.
Part of me wanted to see her up there, smiling and thanking the school principal as he handed the certificate to her. But the realistic part of me knew that wasn’t going to be the case. If I forced her to go, she would slouch in her chair and possibly even stomp her feet all the way up the platform. I began to worry then about why she was so adamant about not wanting this recognition. There seemed to be something really wrong here and the more I watched her, the more convinced I became that she was barely able to hold back tears.
Gently, I picked up her backpack and said, “Let’s do something different tonight, then. Just you and me.”
Blinking at me with surprise, she said, “Really?”
After calling my wife and explaining that I needed to spend some time with Blue and that she shouldn’t worry, Blue and I stopped at the grocery store for some essentials. Despite her bad mood, Blue was soon smiling, even if it was just barely there, curling the edges of her lips.
Before long, we were at the park. Because everyone was probably going to the high school tonight, the place was deserted. I started a fire and opened the marshmallows.
“Thank you, Daddy,” she murmured as she held her marshmallows over the fire.
Looking down at her, I felt a definite opening to talk to her on a deeper level. “Don’t thank me. This is nice for me, too.”
After a brief pause, I continued, “Haven’t you learned by now that you can tell me anything and I’ll still be in your corner, rooting for you?”
Keeping her eyes on her food, she said, “You haven’t accepted your last two Grammy’s in person. Uncle Josh accepted them for the both of you.”
Okay, she had a point. “I guess now that I’ve been away from the business for a while, working behind the scenes in music, I’m more of a homebody. So, what’s your excuse?”
“You wouldn’t understand.”
How many times had she said that to me in the last year? I thought when I got older, I’d be smarter, but to hear her tell it, I’d regressed beyond all reason.
I wasn’t particularly hungry, but I plopped down onto the chair next to her and shoved a marshmallow onto the stick, holding it over the fire. “Just try me, okay?”
There was an uncomfortable pause. I wasn’t at all sure she was going to open up to me. Then, I kept wondering if I should say something to relieve the tension.
Ignoring the marshmallow, I stared out into the distance at the lake down below. A fog was rolling in and I began to hope it wouldn’t rain since I hadn’t even managed to get her talking yet.
Please hold off, I silently told the weather.
“Did Ruby tell you what the award was for?”
“I think she called it the Awesome Attitude award.” I turned the marshmallow in the flame and saw that it was turning black. I didn’t want to pull it out because I wanted her to keep talking. She was holding her stick in front of her, tapping the marshmallows to see how hot they were. Hers were a perfect golden, gooey brown.
“Isn’t that the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard of?”
“Why do you think it’s stupid? I told you how proud I am of you.”
“But that’s just it!” she said as tears rolled down her cheeks.
I wanted to reach out and wipe them away but I refrained. “You’re going to have to elaborate.”
Rolling her eyes as if I was the most shortsighted person in the entire world, she said, “I don’t have an awesome attitude! My attitude sucks!”
I tried to stifle a laugh because I realized, almost too late, that she wasn’t joking. “Okay, so they got it wrong. Who cares?”
“It’s not just that they got it wrong. What is an Awesome Attitude award anyway? This is high school, not kindergarten! The other awards are for academics, sports, music and art!”
“So how is it you’re getting this?”
“Oh, Dad. Don’t you see? You donated a lot of money to that school over the years. We have a new gym floor because of you. Have you seen the new office equipment or the new football uniforms?”
“You’re saying that the only reason you’re getting this honor is because of me?”
“Not only that, but this is a bogus award! They just made it up because I wasn’t good enough on my own in everything else.”
I wanted to tell her that couldn’t be true, that she had it all wrong. Instead, the realization hit me that she was most likely right. My chest tightened and my heart felt crushed. Why would they do this to her?
“I’m so humiliated. I wish I didn’t have to go back.”
“Blue, I’m so, so sorry.” It was all I could say. So, instead of words, I pulled her into my arms, wiped her tears and kissed the top of her head.
When she finally pulled away from me, she said, “Things like this happen all the time to me. You really don’t know at all what it’s been like.”
Sadly, I brushed her hair out of her eyes. “I had no idea.”
“I know.” She wiped her own face now and took a bite of her marshmallow.
Watching her eat, I said, “I can’t change the decisions I made in the past. I thought I was doing the right thing because I knew I’d be able to take care of you. Fame is stupid, though. I really wish you hadn’t been affected by it.”
And that was the truth. So, where did we go from here?