Pink and silver streamers on my Barbie bicycle handles flow in the wind as I peddle hard on the uneven pavement, trying to see how long I can keep the slightly elevated training wheels from touching the concrete below. Behind me, my dad maintains a light jog, and we keep on that way until we reach our special place: The Dream Meadow.
The day I was born, my mother was supposed to be taking finals for law school. That’s a little difficult to do when you’re in labor. She missed two exams while having me, and her study group met later that day at the hospital. Somehow she made it through that semester and the next several, passing the bar exam and receiving a well-deserved degree. To say I’m impressed is an understatement–law school is hard enough without a baby.
Also the day I was born, my father was an anxious mess. He went down to the cafeteria at the hospital to get some juice, and when he came back, I was just beginning to come out into the world. He was caught off-guard, so he did what any young new father would do upon walking in on his wife giving birth–he fainted. My mother’s and the doctors’ attention shifted from the task at hand to the unconscious guy on the chair in the corner of the room. My parents’ differing reactions to my new existence still pretty well summarize our respective relationships.
Because my mother juggled classes and me during the day, my dad got to deal with me before and after work and on the weekends while my mom studied. He was a 22 year old X-Ray Technician, also taking a few classes. As a new father, he had no idea what he was doing. But that didn’t stop him from trying.
On Saturday mornings, my dad would painstakingly gather as much of my towheaded wisps into a hair-tie on the top of my head. After helping me into a bright pink outfit of some sort (in my later toddler years, this would be replaced by blue denim overalls), he would take me out. Money was tight, and he was creative. The pet store became my zoo, public parks my swing set. And after a long walk in the evenings, my dad would read to me. And read to me. And read to me. We went to the library almost daily because I memorized the books quickly. Usually on the third go-around, my dad would just turn the pages as I recited its contents. That’s where the Dream Meadow comes into play.
I was about three when, in the continual desperate search for more books with which to lull me to sleep, my father purchased a $1 box of quality children’s literature from a garage sale. One of the books in the box was about an old guy and his dog. I think both of them ended up dying. There was a meadow involved (not in their deaths–just in the story). Since an overgrown field was located near our house, I named it after the meadow in the book. My dad and I used to go to our Dream Meadow and throw rocks at a fence. Fond memories.
After we could read no more books, I would sit on my father’s lap and watch baseball. The man loves his Kansas City Royals. He secretly ensured that my first name would start with “K” and my middle with “C” so I could go by K.C. Haas if I ever felt the desire. (I actually went by K.C. briefly during the summer after fifth grade, but people always thought it was spelled “Caysi,” which got old pretty quick.) It was during one of our late night baseball marathons that my dad had what he still will refer to as his crowning moment as a parent. I was two-years-old, snuggled up against him, watching the Royals lose to (insert MLB team here). He told me it was time to go to bed. I said, “One more inning, Daddy.” My dad let me watch the next inning, and when he tells that story, his chest swells with pride that his two-year-old daughter not only knew what baseball innings were, but also requested to watch another.
Seventeen years and two more children later, my dad has come a long way from the nervous fainting 22-year-old who thought of his favorite baseball team while naming his newborn. He is much more mature and sophisticated now. Among other things, I credit him for my love of Monty Python, fart jokes and Dumb and Dumber. He’s the man behind much of who I am, from my love of reading to my sense of humor.