From Chicken Soup for the Father & Daughter Soul

The Painted Tractor

Every child born into the world is a new thought of God, an ever-fresh and radiant possibility.

Kate Douglas Wiggin

The year was 1979, and my daughters were ages two, five and seven. Father’s Day was approaching, and I was trying to come up with an original gift idea. Money was tight because we were in the process of renovating a barn into our home while we were living in it.

Suddenly, it hit me. “We’ll paint his tractor!” It was Tom’s first tractor, a used one he bought when we first moved to the northern Virginia countryside from Washington, D.C. “Yes, a new paint job for his tractor is what we’ll give Daddy for Father’s Day,” I told my young daughters. They were delighted.

Off we went to the local hardware store in the nearest town. A salesman approached and asked if he could help me. “Yes,” I said. “I’m looking for paint for my husband’s tractor.”

“What color do you have in mind?” the clerk asked.

I looked down at my daughters and asked each of them what color they wanted.

“I want pink,” my oldest daughter said.

“I want yellow,” my middle daughter said.

“I want blue,” my youngest daughter said.

The salesman looked at me, barely able to hide his shock, and politely asked if my husband knew anything about what we were planning.

“No,” I smiled. “We’re surprising him for Father’s Day. He’s going to be thrilled!”

“I hope you have a strong marriage,” the gentleman replied, genuinely flabbergasted.

We left the hardware store with several different colors of paint. I hired our favorite babysitter for a few consecutive afternoons after school to watch my youngest daughter while our masterpiece began. We started with the hubcaps. One soon had a big daisy in the center; another, a sunburst; the third, a smiley face; the fourth, a star.

We repainted the body of the tractor a pretty blue, and the headlights resembled happy eyes. We painted “We love you!” on the hood facing his seat, which we emblazoned with a big red heart.

When our job was finished, we were all thrilled! Father’s Day couldn’t get here soon enough.

The big day finally arrived, and we sent Tom on a mini treasure hunt. We handed him a written clue, which led to a spot where he found another clue, and so forth, until he eventually wound up in his shed. There he discovered the newly painted tractor.

“Did you girls do this for me?” Tom asked with a huge smile on his face.

The girls jumped all over him, no longer able to contain their excitement.

Each of them then took turns showing their daddy which part of his tractor she had painted.

“Look at my star!” one chimed.

“And my daisy!” another squealed.

“I love it! I love it!” he laughed, hugging them all together. And he meant it. I knew he would.

We went back to the house together, and Tom put on his long-sleeve, black T-shirt designed to look like a tuxedo. He took an old top hat we’d stored away in the closet for who knows how long. “Can I have a picture taken with you girls?” he asked his daughters, now beaming with delight.

Tom drove his tractor closer to our house, and soon the girls were sitting on their father’s lap or standing up next to him on his tractor. I snapped away with my camera.

The photo says it all: Tom, top hat, tuxedo, trio of daughters and a tractor, all saying, “We love you!”

Bobbie Wilkinson

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