birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

A Stranger in the Night

I was born during World War II when my father was serving in the US Navy. He was shipped overseas six months before I was born. Mail delivery was slow and erratic so he didn’t immediately get word of my arrival. He’d done the math and believed, based on those calculations, that his first child had been born sometime in February but he knew nothing more than that until he connected with his brother, my uncle Buzz one weekend in London. Buzz was in the army and was, therefore, able to get more regular post from home. He knew I was a girl and that my name was Penny.
For many more long months, my father and I remained strangers to each other. He later told me that during that period he worried he wouldn’t be able to love me. Initially, he certainly didn’t feel anything but responsibility for the abstract notion I was to him then. I, on the other hand, had no concern at all about him. I gave my missing daddy no thought. I was happily ensconced along with my mother in my grandparents’ home. I was living with three adults who adored me. They let me know every day and in every way that the sun and moon revolved around me.
At last my mother got word that my father was coming home. I was 18 months old, a pretty cute age. Family lore has it that while we were waiting for my daddy‘s arrival, I cudlled up beside my grandfather who was reading the newspaper in his easy chair. I put on my toy sunglasses, picked up a discarded section of the news and crossed my legs just like grandpa. Everybody wanted my father to walk in the door at that exact moment to see how cute I was. But the moment passed. No knock on the door. No ecstatic reunions. The minutes ticked by and only my bedtime arrived.
My mother was giving me my bath when Daddy finally came home. Thus we two strangers met for the first time when I was soaking wet and all together naked. I have no memory of the next moment. I only repeat the family myth. In the joy of his homecoming, my father scooped me up from my bath set me on his head and was dancing around.
Apparently, I wasn’t attuned to the celebratory mood. I let him know this by going potty on his head. The welcome home party was temporarily interrupted while I was taken to my crib and my new-found father shampooed his hair.
It wasn’t the most auspicious meeting, but neither one of us held a grudge. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love and revere my father and I have no doubt that once he shampooed my greeting out of his hair, the affection was mutual

 

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