A tribute to my Daddy on Father's Day.
The grass crunched under our feet - the effects of a dry summer and a freshly, cleared field. The thirsty blades of grass pricked my toes through my sandals. I looked down to watch my feet walking and smiled at the naugahyde butterfly on the toes. I thought about how I was going to fly soon and these butterflies were coming with me. I was getting to do what I had wanted to do since I heard about the event and I couldn’t wait. I looked up to my Dad who was walking beside me. His facial expression was serious and determined. A deep furrow of a frown that I knew from experience was not angry – just focused. His eyes searched the crowd and read signs for tickets and event lines. He caught me looking at him and his face lit up with a smile and an encouraging breathy chuckle. The sun shone behind his tall frame and at that moment I thought how lucky I was to have a dad to take me to such a special place.
The loudest sound I had ever heard besides fireworks broke my attention. It sounded like a rush of air. Like the sound a dragon would make. Bursts of explosive wind - a million times the sound of when you cup your hands over your mouth and blow. I was so startled that I stopped. My dad’s familiar hand took mine and said with a wide open grin – “Finchy – It’s ok! It’s supposed to make that sound! – Loud isn’t it?” Another chuckle came from him – this one stronger and comforting.
As we moved through the lazy, crooked line of people waiting, I looked to the sky and saw a brilliant show of colors. There it was. And here I was standing in front of it. What I had wanted to see - an enormous hot air balloon with brilliant colors and waving streamers. It was beautiful – I didn’t want to look away from it. The fabric reminded me of that parachute game from elementary school. Where children would circle around a large round section of fabric each of them holding onto their part. A kaleidoscope of color as they raised it up and dropped it down - Giggling when it was time to hide underneath it.
My eyes followed the tethers down to the basket at the bottom and it seemed bigger than the one in the Wizard of Oz. It looked like it could hold six people and I knew I would be with my Dad so it was ok. The sound came again. This time it was louder because we were closer and had moved up further in line. I watched as a group of parents and children went up. I was a little mad at first because I realized that the balloon was tied down so they wouldn’t be able to fly away. It was a ride to go up and come down. Not to fly into another county like I had imagined. My disappointment was brief when I watched the children’s noses barely clearing the edge of the basket peering over at us. I wondered what the crowd would look like from up there. My nerves started to get the best of me and Dad put his hand on my shoulder and gave a gentle pat. The group floated down and landed. As they climbed out of the basket we moved up again. When the guy controlling the huge fire underneath the balloon saw that the riders were clear – he motioned for the next group to come forward. A couple of quick pulls on the lever and the dragon roared again. I froze. I felt Dad’s hand on my back – a little more firm this time - urging me forward. I shook my head and my braids bounced against my cheek.
The rush of air from the balloon was so loud I plugged my ears and my shoulders curved and my neck shrunk down like a turtle in a shell. I looked up to my Dad and I saw it. Those blue green eyes smiled at me and he knew. It didn’t matter that we had waited. It didn’t matter that he had bought us tickets. It didn’t matter that he had heard for weeks about going to the fair and riding in a hot-air balloon. None of it mattered. His little girl had changed her mind. He smiled at the people behind us and motioned for them to go ahead. He directed me out of the line then walked to the back where other families were purchasing tickets. He handed our two passes to a Dad and his son and said, “Better luck!” and laughed that wonderful welcoming delightful laugh. I love that man….and I miss him. Because I had the dad who would let me change my mind and support me no matter what.
I love you Daddy.
Happy Father's Day.