80: The Saturday Treat

80: The Saturday Treat

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad

The Saturday Treat

Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other
is our attention.

~Rachel Naomi Remen

Lollipops fanned out in a rainbow of colors. Gum so chock full of sugar that the crystals actually sparkled on the surface. Chocolate bars wrapped in shiny paper, reflecting the store’s fluorescent lights.

And most important of all: my dad.

This is how I remember the Saturdays of my childhood. On that glorious day of the week, Dad took me out for our “Saturday treat.” I could buy whatever I wanted, as long as it didn’t cost more than a candy bar.

Though I had three siblings, my early “Saturday treat” memories feature just my dad and me. My older siblings had outgrown the tradition, and my younger brother was too little.

On our special day, Dad and I sometimes drove to the store. But in good weather, we would walk to our town’s shopping district and chat along the way. Dad would point out interesting sights, like the ants on the sidewalk or a fallen tree branch. We’d stop at our halfway resting spot — a short wall of cinderblocks, just the right size for a kindergartner to perch and dangle her legs.

Soon my younger brother was old enough for candy and began to join us on our trips.

And Saturdays changed.

My brother and I thrived on pestering one another. Dad became part referee, part chauffeur. My brother’s predictable purchase — a grape Charms lollipop — made me roll my eyes. My goal became locating a more delectable item than his.

Time passed and I entered junior high. One Saturday afternoon, my younger brother and I sat under the television’s spell. My dad popped into the room. “I’m going to run some errands,” he said. “Anyone want a Saturday treat?”

We pulled our gazes from the flickering screen. “Yeah. Can you get me a grape Charms?” asked my brother.

“I’ll take a Three Musketeers bar.”

Dad waited. Neither of us budged. The features on his face shifted. Then he turned and left.

Soon after, the Saturday treat tradition ended.

In the rush of junior high, and then high school, I didn’t mourn my lost candy bars. I had better things to do. Or so I thought.

Several years later, I teetered on the edge of adulthood. College loomed, only months away. My nerves jangled. Nostalgia washed over me at the slightest provocation. I’d catch sight of the green living room couch and feel compelled to appreciate it. All those stripes of different shades! How had I never noticed that before? I fell in love with every square inch of my house.

I tried not to think about leaving the people who dwelled inside.

On a spring Saturday, I found myself in the dining room with my dad. Just the two of us. I watched him as he read the paper.

How odd it felt, in the quiet stillness, just he and I.

Growing up in a house packed with people, I rarely had Dad to myself. In addition, Dad had a long commute to work, so he left bright and early. He arrived home for dinner, but shortly thereafter the younger children would be in bed, the older ones deep into their homework.

When did we ever have time to be with our dad?

And then it hit me: Saturday treats.

I sat up straight in my chair. “Hey Dad,” I said. He looked up from the newspaper. “Want to go get a Saturday treat?”

He grinned. We headed out to the garage and grabbed our bicycles. Now that I was no longer a kindergartner with little stamina, we could hit the bike trail and head into the neighboring town for a yummy confection.

As we pedaled, we chatted. Well, actually, I did most of the chatting. Instead of anthills and fallen tree branches, I spoke of friends and school, hopes and fears.

Our tires whirred, our pedals clicked. Dad said little. But his silence was not passive. It hummed with energy. This, I realized, was how he had nurtured me for years. He was listening to every word I said.

One thought crystallized in my head that afternoon. I mattered. To my dad, I would always be someone worth listening to.

I don’t remember getting to the store. I don’t remember what I bought. But I do remember the peace and security I felt knowing that my dad would always be there for me — whether next to me on his bicycle, cheering me on through college from across the country, or tucked safely inside my heart.

He cared. He loved me. Unconditionally.

What sweeter confection could there ever be?

~Sara F. Shacter

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