A fist full of dandelions and rain lilies, held together by ribbons of green weeds. That was the first thing I see from under my sun visor as I trek up the hillside. Damn allergies.
But Shandi was so happy. “Papa! Papa! Look at my bouquet!”
“Oh gosh, sweetie, don’t scare me like that. I saw the rest of your childhood fly by.” I remove the visor and whip my head.
“What do yah mean, Papa?” My wild little girl clutched the bundle to her chest, giving me her trademark curious look. Today wasn’t much of a special occasion, but she was out in her favorite white sundress, which to my surprise, there wasn’t a single grass stain on it. The most free spirited of my daughters, she’s already starting to be more conscious of herself.
“Just promise me you’ll never grow up, hon.”
Her smile lit up wide and she threw her arms around me, “I promise, Papa! I love you!”
“I love you too, sweet heart.” I let her down easy and roll up the bag handles. “Since yah love your Papa so much,” I heft up one of the cooler bags, “could you give him a hand?”
She giggles and takes hand of the bag straps and helps my poor self up the grassy hill. Farther up, I can see Daisy in her own yellow sundress and carrying her brown leather purse casually glancing back at me and Shandi. Kaylee was walking and talking beside her momma, holding our youngest Amber in her arms. As for the extra baggage, I had a picnic basket, a picnic blanket, a large YETI cooler, another bag-cooler, the one Shandi was now swinging around, and lastly Amber’s baby bag.
God, I’m definitely doing good on that New Year’s Resolution.
“Darlin’! Righ’ here is the place.”
My Daisy waves her paw to an old familiar setting. At the top of the hill, was a thick, crooked dogwood tree, full of its little green leaves and knotted and gnarled like bent pipes. It brings back some fond memories.
“Yep that’s the place, hon.”
Shandi helps me unload the bags and spread the blanket out on the ground. Once we all got situated onto the picnic blanket, Kaylee handed Amber to Daisy and helped me set out our little plaid paper trays, as Shandi sat beside her momma and played with the little one in her lap.
As, I start to break open the food, Kaylee tugged on my sleeve, “What’s so special about this place?”
I hand her a sandwich to pass to Shandi, “Well, this is where me and your momma had our first date.”
I look to my Daisy to see a little blush over her cheeks, “That’s right, your Papa an’ I had been high school flames an’ for our first date, he carried me up this hill and made a nice picnic for me, just the two of us.”
Kaylee and Shandi listened to their momma with a gleam in their eyes, no doubt trying to visualize how it all went down. As she told the story, I loaded up the kids plates with sandwiches and potato chips.
“He struggled to get me up the hill, though, an’ when we got here, he smushed some of the sandwiches too.”
“Papa did that?” Kaylee looked at me with a smirk.
“Yea yea yea, I messed up the first time, guys do that.”
Daisy got an evil little smirk about her, “Oh! And did I tell you how he was expectin to get lucky with me?”
Kalee gasped and looked at me, “Papa!”
“What!? I was not!” I remembered how that happened. When in doubt, you cover your spout, and I was all about that back in the day. But when you really want to impress your date, you try to be as prepped as possible and good looking too. Still with that sneaky smile, Daisy continued, “Well, he was trying to do a magic trick, by putting a quarter in my ear and pulling it out of his pocket.”
“Lets just say he didn’t pull out a quarter.” Kaylee and her momma giggled as I sat there red with embarrassment. And just then it hit me, Kaylee was 12, how does she know what a condom is? My wife caught me right before I could say anything, “Darlin’, lets eat, we’re all starving here.”
“Alright, alright, but you wanna know the cool thing about being here this time, darlin’?”
I lean over to her perked, pointed ears, “Now, I don’t have to worry about wrapping it.”
. . .
By the time we finished our little meal, the girls were already getting restless. Luckily for me, I had been through the ringer a few times now, and came prepared. Out from the side of Amber’s baby bag, I brought out a Frisbee. Now, in any other situation, people would think its a stupid and slightly misogynist, but may I remind them that my family is part hound.
Shandi jumped at the sight of the green Frisbee and instantly ran out into the grass, Amber doing the same, lagging after her older sister, both now pawing up on each other trying to get ready for the Frisbee. I sling it like a stone and watch as that green disk soars in the air over the girls heads and farther out in the field, as the two barrel down the hill after it.
Kaylee remained seated, eating a little bit more of her sandwich, although I could tell she wanted to join too. The slight wave back and forth of her tail and that extra flicker in her eyes gave her hidden playfulness away. She caught me looking and immediately turned back down to her food.
Shandi ran back with that disk in her mouth and a silly wide grin on her face, “I ghot it, phapha!”
Daisy leaned over and took the Frisbee, “Come on, lets go after little Amber, sweetie.”
As Daisy rose up from her seat on the blanket and looked at me. Slowly she mouthed the words, “You need to talk with your daughter.” silently pointing to Kalee, who was still nibbling on her last bit of sandwich. Before I could make my secret hand signals as to what was wrong, my wife spun back around and walked off to her other two daughters with the Frisbee, shaking that mighty, tight ass she flaunted too for extra tease.
Now my heart was mixed with a sense of that Daddy-Needs-To-Know courage and that eerie dread of what my daughter would be hiding. I skooch on over and put my knees up beside her. Her low lit gaze still looks down at her sandwich, but she knows that somethings coming.
“Yes Papa…” she mumbles.
“Is there somethin’ you want to tell me?”
She remorsefully eats her last bit of sandwich and wraps her arms around her huddled knees, “M-maybe…”
I sigh and open my arms, “Come’re sweetie.”
Kaylee looks back up at my arms and slowly leans into me; I hug her closer and pat her head. “Sweetie, I’m your Papa. You can tell me anythin’ and I won’t hate you or get mad at yah.” I perk her chin up, her eyes already teary, “Shhhh, come on, you don’t have to cry.”
She shook off her tears, “O…Okay Papa.”
I scoot back and lay up against the dogwood tree, “So tell me sweet heart, whats got yah down?”
Finding her little niche on my chest, she manages a whimper, “Well…theres this boy…”
At the mention of ‘boy’, I get anxious. Oh god! Please tell me they haven’t done anything yet!
“He and I…I kinda have a crush on him an’ he…hes to oblivious to see it…” She pouts.
I can’t help but let out a long, relieved sigh, grateful that its wasn’t among any of the imagined possibilities in my head. “Oh man, is he just an idgit or somethin’?”
“I think so…but hes really nice…and he helps me at school.”
“Oh so thats where you two met?”
She nods her head, “Mhmm.”
“Are y’all in the same class?”
“Has he tried askin’ you out?”
I sigh again, ” Well, honey that’s why you aren’t really gettin’ anywhere, Kaylee.”
She looks up at me from her little cradle in my arm, “What do yah mean, Papa?”
I point out to her mother, who was out there chasing around Shandi and Amber like dogs after their tails. By now those sundresses were already a bit dirty, but the sight of Daisy’s smile in the gold haze of the setting sun was just perfect for me.
“I’m gonna tell you a secret about momma, you can’t ever tell anyone. Promise?”
She looked at me confused for a second before putting her finger to her mouth and pulling it across like a zipper. “Nobody, Papa.”
I sit up a bit and place my oldest in my lap, “A long time ago, when me and your momma were first dating, she was very nervous about us being together. There would be times where I would find her in an empty classroom at school givin’ herself a pep talk on how to act like a good Hellhound. But she would end up bein’ all shy and close kept when we were together. I didn’t know how to act around her because of that, until one day she came to my house and yelled at me, red in the face, ‘We’re going to have a picnic!’.”
Kaylee giggled and we laughed for a moment before I too her paw, “And that’s how we made the trip up here. Now, it took a lot for her to do it, but she did it. I’d hate to imagine what would’ve happened to us if she didn’t go out for what she wanted most.”
Kaylee looked at me and smiled a toothy grin, “I understand, Papa.”
“Alright, but remember sweetie. You tell me everythin’ about this boy later, alright?”
“Argh! Go play with your sisters, you wild child.”
She leapt around my neck and hugged me, “I love you, Papa.”
I kiss her cheek, “I love you too, sweet heart.”
. . .
It was now growing into night time and the three wild flowers were out in the grass jumping and leaping all over each other like frogs. In the midst of the setting sun, the girls discovered a new oddity to hold their attention. Fireflies. They blinked to and fro, flashing little streaks of yellow and orange as the little munchkins ran after them, trying to catch them in their paws, a few times they succeeded. Daisy came back and sat with me on the picnic blanket up against that ole dogwood tree and leaned in that same cradle of my arm that Kaylee had just come from.
“You told her the whole story didn’t you?”
Well that didn’t last long. “Yeah, she needed to hear it.”
“These ears, aren’t just for decoration, yah know?” She smirked, ” And it looks like someones gettin’ birched tonight.”
“That’s not really a punishment, yah know?”
We giggled, curling our hands together and watching our daughters play out in the meadow. It was a silent and happy moment of bliss, until Daisy whimpered. I curled my head forward and saw little tears sizzle near her flaming lashes.
“Darlin’ what’s wrong?”
She wiped away her eyes, “It’s…it’s nothing I…they just grow up so fast you know?” She cuddles up closer to me, “I mean, when I was young, I always had a problem not puttin’ dents in things and not squishing things to a pulp, an’ here they are catchin’ fireflies without a hitch. They are already able ta be more aware of who and where they are and…”
Fighting back a lump in my throat, I pat my wife’s head and kiss her cheek, “We knew it was comin’ one day, but…it just snuck up on us, huh?”
“Don’t worry, darlin’. They’re still gonna be our little kids. We’ll baby them an’ embarrass them all we wanna, but they’ll have to go one day too…just like we did.”
. . .
Almost a quarter til 10, we rounded up our wild bunch and loaded the mini van back up with our picnic supplies. Once we got the three strapped in their seat belts and we were on our way home. There was about an hours drive back home and not even 20 minutes in, our little girls fell asleep, Shandi drooling over Kaylee’s dress and Amber rested in her car seat, clutching her inseparable stuffed rabbit.
Daisy and I are wiping the sleep from the corners of our eyes, as I make the drive back home. Daisy’s dress strap catcehs my eye, still keeping a good eye on the road, but that yellow shoulder strap slowly sank lower and lower. I was tired, but when married to a hellhound, the sexiest one at that, you can’t help but be constantly aroused at the prospect of you and her by yourselves.
Almost like a signal was received from my gaze, she caught me starring and smirked, letting that second pesky strap make its slow descent as well. “Gettin’ frisky there, hubby?”
“Oh, just a little bit…but we’re drivin’ so we-“
She moved quickly from her seat over my lap and grabbed the fly of my zipper and pulled it down. I almost forgot that the kids were in the car and gasped, “Daisy! Sto- mphhh.”
She clamped my mouth shut with her large paw and licked her lips, “You better keep a good eye on that road, darlin’. And do your best to not wake up the kids.”