“Breakfast, honey?” I asked, holding up toast with peanut butter and honey drizzled over the top.
Minnie smiled but put her hand over her mouth to hide it. “You’re lucky I can’t keep a straight face for my life.”
I dropped my shoulders in mock sadness. “You didn’t find it at least a little amusing?”
She tilted her head in sympathy. “I find the fact that you think yourself amusing, amusing.”
I shrugged. “I’ll take it.”
I slid the plate towards her, and her erudite eyes glittered. Peanut butter and honey was her favorite way to have toast. I grinned softly at this sweet daughter of mine.
She noticed me watching her, and she looked up and grinned. My heart paused in place; my love fighting for some way to be accurately expressed. I opened my mouth to tell her I loved her, but just at that moment, honey slipped off the toast and into her lap. She gasped and put the toast down.
“Crap!” She grabbed some napkins and tried to dab it away, but the stain was noticeable, and it had definitely fallen in an unfortunate place. I looked away, but a smirk couldn’t help but find its way to my lips. “Don’t laugh!” she exclaimed while sniggering herself. “Honey landing in my crotch was not the way I planned to start my morning!”
She marched off dramatically in the direction of her room, but she hadn’t gone terribly far before the laughter came. She wasn’t the type of girl to be easily dismayed by stained clothing. I loved her for that.
Minnie was the wittiest and snarkiest young woman I had ever met or have yet to meet. She was the kind of kid who could do something wrong but do it in such a hilarious way that you couldn’t possibly be mad at her. Her dry humor had never been clearer than the time she explained why the garage door had been left open after she got home from school.
“I wanted to save you the trouble of having to press the button after you got home from work.” She shrugged.
I shook my head. “You do realize all I have to do is reach up and press the button in the car, right?”
I cocked an eyebrow. “So you leave the garage door open and vulnerable to an intruder, just so that I don’t have to raise a hand and press a button because I’m tired from work?”
She crossed her arms. “Fine, then. I’ll be less considerate next time.”
I crossed my arms in response. “You just forgot to do it, didn’t you?”
She scoffed at me, but a grin was pulling at her lips. “I resent that! All I was trying to do was save my hard-working father from having to lift one more finger
than absolutely necessary, and all his loving daughter gets in response are complaints? You’ll regret this, I assure you.”
The next day when I came home from work, the garage door was closed for once. I hit the button in the car to open it, but nothing happened. I hit it a few more times, but nothing moved. I finally reached up and grabbed the little device from the sun visor. The backing was removed, revealing an empty space where the batteries were supposed to be. I rolled my eyes and got out of the car. I opened the garage door manually after a few minutes of trying to loosen the rusty handle. I got back in my car and drove it in, then closed the garage door from the indoor button.
I walked in the kitchen to find Minnie pretending to not look like she had been waiting for me.
“Hey Daddy. How was work?”
I narrowed my eyes and set my backpack on the table. “Work was fine.” She nodded and suddenly became quite focused on the piece of paper in front of her. “So Minnie…”
“Did you happen to, oh I don’t know, take the batteries out of my garage door opener?”
She looked up from her paper. “Perhaps.” She looked at my expression and put a hand to her chest. “Oh, I’m sorry! Was that not what you wanted? I had assumed based on yesterday that you really enjoy opening the garage door, so I let you have a more personal experience doing so. You’re welcome.” She grinned triumphantly and returned to the piece of paper.
I shook my head. “You know what, Millie? I was wrong earlier. I really appreciate you looking out for me by not making me press the button. It is actually quite exhausting.”
She harrumphed. “Uh-huh. That’s what I thought.”
The garage door was always left open every day after that. It wasn’t entirely safe, but parenting had revealed that sometimes you just accepted the things that didn’t make a lot of sense, because one day, you would look back and miss the irregularities. I had no idea quite how true that would be.
Minnie marched back into the kitchen, her brown eyes on fire as she put her hands on her hips. She was wearing a yellow sundress. Her brown, wavy hair fell over the thin straps and was a beautiful contrast to the brightness of the dress.
“I forgot I put in a load of laundry today. Besides, I don’t have time to find new pants and a shirt to go with it. Far too much effort.” She grabbed the toast and gingerly licked off the honey from the sides that were dripping.
“You look beautiful, Minnie.”
Her eyes lit up in surprise. She gave me a genuine smile. “Thanks,” she said sheepishly.
I handed her her bookbag. “Now get out of here. You’re going to be late.” She swung the backpack on her shoulder and gave me a slight wave with the toast-holding hand and rushed out the door.
If I had had any idea what would happen that day, I would have demanded a better goodbye. I can’t complain, I suppose. It had been a good dad day. But that morning should have been a sweet moment that I vaguely remembered with fondness, but instead, it’s a moment that’s burned into my memory tainted with sorrow. He ruined my good dad day. I will never forgive him for that.
I had to take the dress home. They were nice enough to fold it and place it in a box. I put it on the passenger seat as I drove back from the school. When I pulled up to the garage, the door was closed. Minnie hadn’t come home from school to leave it open. I reached up to press the button, but I stopped midway. Tears streaking my cheeks, I gingerly grabbed the box and got out of the car. I opened the garage door manually and left it open.
I stare at the box as I place it on the kitchen counter. Anger floods through me and I throw a plate at the wall. I crumble to the floor and fold into my sobs. I’m sure the neighbors can hear me and their sympathy seeps through the walls. I want to scream at them to mind their own business. I know this is all in my head, but grief makes it incredibly hard to be anywhere but your own head.
I take a deep breath and lay my hand on the small white box. Of course it’s white. They had to give me something to disrupt the seas of black that have marked the past few days. Tears continue to fall, but with a shaky post-sobbing breath, I open it.
Her beautiful yellow dress gleams up at me. The flower pattern innocently pleads with me to remember how young she was. The thin straps force me to think of the way her brown hair cascaded over them, darkness meeting sunshine. I stroke my hand across the fabric. A drop of snot falls from my nose to the dress, and I flinch as if someone struck me with a hot needle. I quickly wipe my nose and eyes with a tissue before returning to the priceless dress.
I lift it out of the box. My hands shake as I gingerly reach out and feel along the hole in the middle of the dress. It’s shockingly small, no larger than a gumball. Through the hole in the dress I can see the stool she sat on when she ate her toast. That was the toast that caused her to stain her jeans which made her change into this dress. I shouldn’t be able to see that stool. I shouldn’t be able to see through this yellow fabric. There shouldn’t be a hole. There shouldn’t be an empty stool and a closed garage door. Yet here I am, standing with a torn yellow dress in my hands. I clutch the fabric like maybe, just maybe, if I picture her wearing it for long enough, the hole might disappear, and brown hair might tickle my hands as I hug her shoulders.
The hole never closes, and the garage door is never left open.