What do you want to be, Daddy?

Dear Izzy, Max, and Kate,

We talk in circles at our dinner table. Sometimes we remember to pray. Taking turns. Mostly “thank you God” for this food, for my brother, for my sister, for our dog, for tractors, for firetrucks, for my friends. We pray “for” when we pray out loud. And “please” when we pray in silence.

This week it occurred to you, Kate, that we aren’t quite grown yet and the world holds possibilities for each of us still.

You asked each of us, one by one, what we want to be when we grow up.

“A worker man,” you said Max. “A tractor man. A truck man.”

We all agreed it was a good ambition.

“An artist,” you said, Izzy.

We all nodded in agreement. The sensitivity matches your spirit.

Mommy asked you what you want to be, Kate.

“A princess. A fairy butterfly. Or a witch,” you said.

What else would our free spirit be.

“What do you want to be, Mommy?” you asked, Kate.

“I’m a mommy,” she said. Our eyes met. I smiled. We were both tired.

“That’s a great thing,” I said.

“What do you want to be, Daddy?” you asked, Kate.

Here’s the crossroads with my kids, I thought. Where I explain who I am and who I’ll become.  The crux.

I shuffled food on my plate. Pushed it around. Pressed my tongue against my teeth. Stared back at myself. Out of body again. On top of a mountain somewhere cold. A dirt floor somewhere West. A beach with rocky cliffs and large felled trees in a drizzling rain. Fueling boats to take short trips on Bohicket Creek. The grey in my hair now. The newness of age in my face still startling. A long pause.

You kids squirmed in your chairs.

“What do you want to beeee, Daddy?”

Mommy looked up at me. Blue eyes. The same way she looked at me the night we first danced together to an 80’s cover band at Main Street. Like the second time we danced together, a few nights later, while a jazz band played in a small restaurant, while no one else danced.

I wanted to be a soldier like my dad when I was kid. I wanted to wrestle in the Olympics and coach college wrestling. That was 30 years ago, and 20 years ago.

“What do you want to be, daddy?”

“What do you want to be, daddy?”

It echoed in our house.

I love you,

– Daddy