I hid my face and curled up against my father's chest, damp grass underass and chilled toes in hand. If I shut my eyes, it'll stop, I kept mumbling, as my dad kept repeating, "don't worry," Easy for you to say. The apocalypse is ablast, and I'm not even potty trained.
I have patchwork memories of that otherwise festive night. I remember my mother not being there. She probably felt this had to be a father-daughter moment, us being the Americani in the family, and all. Or perhaps for another reason, the nature of which I know not. My assumption is that this was to be my dad's day with me, and she just backed out elegantly. I don't remember how long we stayed after, nor the food we ate before. I just have the recollection of that loud open night sky, alight with chrysanthemums of sparks and artificial stars.
It is an event that my father often reminds me of. I believe it was one of those bonding moments that inevitably happen between parent and offspring. Perhaps there, on that freshly mowed lawn that night, is where my father first felt the full weight of my child vulnerability. As he held my scared little being in his warm embrace, he probably understood how much a defenseless child is dependent on a father, on a pair of two strong arms and a soothing baritone voice. Maybe it made him feel good to calm me. And the relief was mutual. I was tiny and seeing the sky detonate in colors was a scary first for me. My dad's presence and his soft words of comfort made it all OK.
My dad's not too keen on emails. Until very recently, my father and I exchanged handwritten letters. He usually writes his on yellow lined notepad paper. His words are written in loopy rounded, large swooping characters. I have saved many of his letters in a special velvet folder, and I treasure them more than he can imagine. I keep one special one in my wallet. When my apartment got burgled (with me in the house: THAT'S something to be scared of, not fireworks!) and my handbag pillaged, I went straight to check not the monetary damage, but that the letter had not been dislodged from its space between the checkbook and the lottery stubs. It was still there. Here is an excerpt from that letter:
"The other day, July 4th, as we were finishing our phone call - I reminded you of that one time - years ago - when you had been afraid of the fireworks - and you replied 'yeah, but you held me in your arms, and you made it all OK.' Oh, Eleonora you don't know how happy I was that you remembered, and that you said that the other day. I love you so much, with all my heart - and I am so proud of you and of your life... (I'm crying now)..."
Every Sunday dad and I have an appointment. We talk on the phone. It's something we've done ever since I can remember. Sometimes it's a brief chat, sometimes it's a long marathon that lasts hours. We hardly ever exchange handwritten letters anymore, but that's alright. He is a loving father and a dedicated Grandfather for my son. He sends packaged boxes addressed to him filled with wonderful books in English, and toys, clothes and trinkets always accompanied by a sweet note and a few loving words for me too.
This summer my son and I will be visiting my dad in California. It will be my boy's first time on an airplane, his first time out of Italy, and my first intercontinental flight with toddler. We're both very excited and can't wait for our departure date. My dad though, seems to be the one who's the most anxious and giggly with anticipation for this trip. Phone calls and emails have doubled in these last few weeks. Sometimes we talk every day, exchanging short news updates or just for no reason at all other than hearing our voices. It will be a very important time for us, all together. My son's first encounter with his full American side of the family, and my first time back in the States as a mother. The new me in the New World. He is four and we'll be watching fireworks. History repeats itself.
I had forgotten that today is Father's Day there. We celebrate ours on March 19th, and it is a religious festivity besides being a family one. Reading a friend's post today reminded me that on the 3rd Sunday in June, in America, United Kingdom, France, India, Greece, Canada, Ireland, Japan, South Africa, Mexico and many other countries, daddies are honored and commemorated. We will be having our Father's Day barbecue later this year, on a sandy California beach somewhere, and it will include 3 generations.
Happy Father's Day, Dad. I'm shooting fireworks for you here today. And my arms are open wide. It's all OK.