DATE NIGHT

Just before dinner last Saturday night, daughter Alex texted:  Maddie and Tim are off to the father-daughter dance tonight! 

The excitement had been snowballing all week. “It’s tomorrow!” the fifth grader reminded her mother on Friday. Over Saturday breakfast, Maddie announced, “Only eight more hours!”

Maddie’s passion for watching “Project Runway” guided her sartorial selections. She suggested her dad wear a blue suit to match her dress. “She also chose a green and blue tie,” Tim said.  The corsage, ordered by her dad and mirroring his boutonniere, showcased calla lilies, baby’s breath, blue and teal ribbons — the 11-year-old’s favorite colors.

A dab of lip gloss! A touch of mascara! A thank-you hug to mom who spent an hour “pressing” Maddie’s long blond hair!

Then they were out the door and on their way to the dance hall, AKA Portsmouth Middle School cafeteria, where Tim and Maddie pulsed to the Nae Nae and stomped their feet to the old familiar ditty, “Juju on That Beat.”

“Last year we made it to the finals of the dance contest but lost in a controversial clap-off,” Tim said. This year “we didn’t get chosen, but there was more dancing to be done, so Maddie moved on.” Fruit punch and cookies kept the duo energized. 

“This closes a chapter,” Tim said. Next year Maddie will be in middle school and the father-daughter dance is an elementary school event. “It’s nice to see her growing up with a large circle of friends she can hang out with,” Tim said, “but also sad because my volume in her life is beginning to diminish.” 

Hardly. Treasured father-daughter moments still stir my heart even though my dad died 17 years ago, and my college years were decades earlier.

Skidmore was an all-women’s college in the 1960s so we loved it when men arrived on campus. But honestly, a carload of guys driving in from Dartmouth or Williams couldn’t match our excitement for Happy Pappy Weekend when our dads arrived by planes, trains and automobiles in mid-February to dance, dine, attend classes, take us shopping and experience our campus life.

We got to know our dads better— and they us. My dad discovered I had started to smoke Parliaments and that I favored political science courses. I realized he was more than a disciplinarian and bill payer: my dad was one gregarious gentleman. 

 Check out Dad and me in front, center, with friend Betty Anne, whose dad couldn't come, dressed up as a PlayBoy bunny. 

Check out Dad and me in front, center, with friend Betty Anne, whose dad couldn't come, dressed up as a PlayBoy bunny. 

Just before Freshman year Happy Pappy, I made a reservation at the Grand Union Motel on Broadway for my dad and my roommate’s father. When I phoned to tell him, dad said he’d “handle his room situation by himself.”

Next thing I knew, he had booked himself a suite at the Gideon Putnam Hotel. “We’ll have a Happy Pappy cocktail party there with your friends,” he said. And we did.

My dad’s and my remembrances are history. Tim and Maddie are just writing theirs. Tim said, “I hope when she looks back on her childhood, she thinks about family, events and adventures. I want her to understand that the stories you create while being with people far outweigh any material items she may acquire.” 

I wouldn't worry about that, Tim.