From Chicken Soup for the Father & Daughter Soul

I Love You, Pilgrim

Love never reasons but profusely gives.

Hannah More

“Howdy, Pilgrim! You aimin’ to sleep the day away?”

I groaned and pulled my pillow over my head. I knew what today was without opening my eyes. It was a day of significance on the level of Christmas in our house. It was John Wayne movie marathon day. Apparently my father had already had a dose or two of the Duke before waking me up.

From my siblings’ room next door I could hear him continue, “We got a can o’ beans warmin’ on the fire and black coffee to warm them bones.” I assumed the thud that followed was Naomi’s pillow hitting the door behind him while John groaned as I had.

My father had definite opinions about good entertainment. Movies must contain John Wayne or Jimmy Stewart. Music must be that of Handel, Mozart or Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Dad was also a bookworm, and our den showed the treasure of his collection. John, Naomi and I were an odd combination, inheriting a strong love for books from Dad, and a love of being on stage from Mom. Dad never quite understood this passion, but he always supported us.

During my middle-school years, I joined the band. Dad was at each concert, reading a book until it began and reading again until it was time to give me a congratulatory hug. He always gave me a smile and replied, “Good work. You didn’t forget any words.”

In high school all of our interests turned to drama. During my senior year I reached the pinnacle—I was cast in our spring musical! I spent countless hours practicing. I’d run tap routines as I combed my hair and rehearse the songs as I set the table for dinner.

Opening night came. Pre-performance rose deliveries were made backstage. When handed my flower, my heart sank. Only Momma, John and Naomi had signed the card.

“What’s wrong?” asked Stacie, my best friend and fellow “lady-in-waiting.”

“I don’t think my dad came.”

“Of course he came,” she reassured me.

“But he didn’t sign the card.”

“Maybe he was reading,” she laughed.

“Maybe.” But I was crushed. Even though he didn’t understand my love of it, he had never missed a performance of anything.

The play began and ran beautifully. I danced and sang my heart out. I scanned the audience when I could, but never found my family. During intermission Stacie and I headed to the dressing room. She entered before me and was smiling as I came through the door. There, on top of my costume bag, was a single red rose. The card read, “Break a leg. I’m proud of you. Love, Dad.” He had never sent me a rose from just him. He had also remembered the theater superstition of never saying “Good Luck.” I was touched. During the second act I not only danced, I flew.

After curtain call I rushed to get back into my street clothes. I grabbed all of my stuff and raced out the door. I hugged Stacie’s parents as I searched for Dad. Finally, over in a corner, I saw my family. Flying through the crowd, Mom grabbed me in a bear hug, bubbling over with how great we were.

Then I was face to face with Dad. Book tucked under his arm, he smiled and reached for a hug. “You did a good job,” he whispered into my hair.

“I was afraid you didn’t come,” I said.

“I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” he grinned at me.

As we turned to leave, I hooked my arm through his. He laughed and asked, “Tell me again why the boys wore tights. John Wayne would never wear tights.”

Aletheia Lee Butler

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