Sunday, June 20, 2010

Hold Over

It was a long time ago, perhaps 45 years in the past. In my recall it was a sultry night in Toledo, Ohio. The windows were open and the sheer curtains fluttered in the slight breeze fingering the tiny bedroom at my Grandma's house. I was curled up in my babydoll pajamas, hair plastered to the sweat on my neck and forehead, dreaming. I remember the dream being dark, I remember feeling lost (both a common recurrence in my dreams, even to this day). Something woke me up with a start. I didn't recognize Grandma's place for what it was. It was only an unknown territory that was Not My Room. I was frightened, terrified really, and began to cry.

Suddenly my Father was standing over me, smoothing the hair from my face. "What is it, Punkin?" Punkin was my special name, a name reserved only for him to use and only for me. I couldn't answer, not only was I still crying too hard to be coherent, but I really didn't know what had upset me so. I merely hiccuped as I started on a fresh batch of tears.

Dad stooped to gather me up into his arms. I wrapped my tiny arms around his neck and clung for dear life. Dad, in obeisance to the heat, was wearing just a muscle-man t-shirt tucked into his trousers. I remember the sticky, hot feel of his skin, and the slightly scratchy feel of beard stubble as I buried my face in his neck. I remember the scent coming from him, the sour pine turpentine smell that, as a sign painter, seemed to be a permanent part of his odor, and the co-mingled smells of tobacco and Right Guard deodorant. It was those smells, more than anything, that gave me a sense of safety. Dad took me out to Grandma's living room and held me like that, gently rubbing my hair against my scalp, for... I don't know how long. I must have fallen back to sleep in his arms.

This is one of my truly treasured memories of my Dad, as I don't remember him holding me like that any other time in my life. I'm not sure why it happened that time (terrified child emergencies were usually Mom's department), I'm only thankful that it did. To this day, the scent of cigarette smoke on a Summer night's breeze is one I love. It reminds me that once upon a time, this little girl was completely and utterly safe, from all of the monsters in this world and any other, in her Daddy's arms.

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