O P I N I O N
My wife raises her eyebrow. “You’re wearing that?”
I’m wearing my classic R.E.M. jersey, an original.
She says, “Don’t you have anything from the ’70s? I would think that you of all people would have clothes from the ’70s.”
I don’t have time to figure out if that’s an insult or not. Little Bean and I are late for something her school is calling the Big/Little Dance. She’s the little. I’m the big. She had the option of attending this dance with any Big she wanted. She picked me.
The theme of the Big/Little Dance is ’70s Disco. She’s wearing a blue ruffle dress, with ballet flats and a ’70s workout headband. My daughter, as always, looks amazing and for the millionth time I’m glad she has a mother with a sense of style, because she doesn’t have a father with one.
I’m about to protest that my R.E.M. concert shirt is the closest I can come to the 70s, but then it hits me: I might have something after all.
I run back to my closest and dig deep to the end. There it is. I still have it!
For many years, my father had been what the Catholics would call an Extraordinary Minister. That’s basically a layperson who helps the priest during Mass. The EMs of that time had their own little suit coats. This was 1972 so the suit coat had a white silk lining and wide lapels. They were powder blue.
I still have his! When he passed a few years ago, I kept the coat, not because I had any intention of wearing it, but because the image of that jacket is embedded in my DNA. I had no intentions behind it when I took it home, but now I did.
I slip it on over a bright red shirt. Remarkably, it mostly fits. My dad was a bit shorter than me and had stumpy arms so the sleeves are short, but otherwise, it’s fine. It’s very funny, though very uncomfortable.
My wife laughs when I step out into the living room. “That does the trick.” She pulls my collar out and folds it over the jacket collar.
One last thing.
“Kneel down, Daddy,” Little Bean says. I do and she slips another one of her multi-colored headbands over my head. “Now we match.”
That afternoon, we don’t walk into the Disco Dance, we strut in like we’re John F-ing Travolta powering down 86th Street. I toss a couple finger guns at some admiring dads who somehow, foolishly, are wearing regular clothes. Little Bean checks in with her peeps and I see her pointing in my direction, obviously showing her friends how Disco awesome her old man is. No one looks as good as us with the possible exception of Mr. O, the school gym instructor who is also subbing as the dance DJ.
Mr. O has mirror shades and that makes all the difference.
There’s a screen up on the stage and dance scenes are being projected up there from iconic movies. Meanwhile, Mr. O goes with the classics: “We Are Family,” “YMCA,” “Stayin’ Alive” and so forth. Nothing fancy. It’s best to stay focused.
The dance rolls on, as elementary school dances do. The gym is blisteringly hot and I fear the permanent damage my sweat might be doing to the 50-year-old lining of my jacket. There’s snacks and seltzer to devour.
Suddenly, Little Bean is running up to me, tugging on my sleeve. “It’s hula hoop time, Daddy, come on!”
Mr. O is running a little competition. The Bigs stand on one side of the gym while the Littles stand on the other. The Bigs have a regular-sized hula hoop. The Littles have a kid hula hoop. The object of the game is for the Little to run to the Big while hula-hooping and then for the Big to hula-hoop back.
I have no clue how to hula hoop, but I won’t let her down.
The race begins and I’m shocked to discover my daughter can run and hula hoop at the same time. Where in heaven’s name did she learn how to do that? At any rate, by the time she reaches me, she’s way out ahead of the other Littles and the crowd is going crazy.
My job is to stay out ahead of the pack. “Go Daddy,” Little Bean yells and I do this weird sort of run, hop, twist thing. Like, I’m clearly not actually hula-hooping, but the plastic, rainbow hoop around my waist is sort of spinning. I’m trying not to blow out my knees because the sight of me being wheeled away by EMTs in a sweaty, powder blue, wide-lapeled suit coat is the last thing my daughter needs as a core memory.
I cross the finish line to discover that we won! Little Bean bounces up and high-fives me.
“Should we go celebrate with some popcorn,” I ask. She grins and we go to feast.
Somewhere my dad is grinning too.