My dad had a second story apartment in the Casa Del Rey overlooking Broadway. I would visit him on the weekends and we would walk up the street to the corner QFC to buy food for dinner. He was on the road every week it seemed, so he didn’t keep much on hand. It was so different from our suburban neighborhood in north Seattle. People filled the streets on Saturday night, spilling off the sidewalk and crossing in between the slow-moving cars. No one seemed to mind the chaos. The colors and sounds and smells billowed thick from the bars and restaurants. Men with gravity-defying hair wore headbands of soft leather ornately beaded. Bright silks and faded denim flashed through the crowd. Bell-bottomed women glided footless across the cement. No linen shifts, pumps or bouffant hair constrained their movements. Loud conversations and acoustic guitars grabbed my attention. My head swung right and left though I held tight to his hand and march quickly forward two steps to every one of his. When we got back to the apartment, I would lie in the bay window, chin in my palms watching the strange world go by. He would cook dinner and ask about my school. His favorite was a broiled steak with fresh steamed spinach leaves. He dripped lemon juice on the spinach and topped it off with butter. He would always have warm, sourdough rolls. After dinner, we would talk. He had a weakness for ice cream, so we would often venture out for a scoop in a waffle cone.
Being at my dad’s house was so different than my mom’s. My mom’s house was a house of women and girls. There was really no trace of masculinity left in the place. Even when my grandfather visited, he seemed a bit out of place, an interloper among the panty hose and Dippity Doo. I was particularly interested in my dad’s bathroom which was where he dropped his shaving kit when he got home from a trip. I don’t remember him ever really unpacking the contents. It just sat there perched on the side of the sink- dark scuffed leather, unzipped and gaping open. I could see his toothbrush and toothpaste, his dental floss and razor, and, best of all, his shaving cream. Girls did not have shaving cream back then. It was a mystery. I had seen my dad shave before, his face covered in the thick, white waves. He would crane his neck as he drug the razor upward toward his chin. I wondered if it was like whipped cream or meringue somehow, as those were the only things I had to compare it to. The can was tipped on its side and the cap long lost. A tiny bit of gel seeped from the nozzle. I could see it was green. I shut the bathroom door knowing he would never walk in on me and I took out the can. It was metal with words in shiny black and green. I touched the top of the nozzle and jumped as it erupted into my little hand. It was so pretty- white with ribbons of green and blue. It expanded there in my hands. I was worried at first that it might not stop but it did. I could not resist doing it again. I wanted to put some on my cheek to see what it would feel like, but I thought that might only be for boys. I certainly did not want to become one of those. But it was strangely satisfying to push the top and spray it on the edges of the sink. I ran my fingers through it making curvy lines and coaxed it into waves. I pushed again, and nothing happened. I knew right then that I was in big trouble. I started to run water in the sink, but the foam got bigger. I put some in my hands and dropped it in the trash. It took some doing and not a small amount of prayers before I got the mess cleaned up (I figured God would not want me to get in trouble when He created everything which included this very tempting shaving cream).
My dad, I should mention, was not gullible. He used to tell me he had been around the block. I didn’t know what that meant exactly but I thought it must be like school because he knew a lot. After my protracted trip to the bathroom, I put on my most innocent look and held my breath. He coincidentally needed to use the bathroom right after me at which time he discovered that all of his shaving cream had disappeared. I knew I was caught. He sat me on the couch and asked me what happened to his shaving cream. I quickly told him that I did not know. He looked me in the eye and in a quiet voice said, “Cathy, there is going to come a day, not too many years from now, when you are going to want me to trust you. You are going to want me to trust you to drive a car or go on a date or go off with your friends alone to the movies. I have to be able to trust you. That trust is built in times like this.” My lip was quivering by then. Tears stung my eyes. I knew I had disappointed him. I knew I had lied. And I sure didn’t want to go on a date, but I had been in a car and knew I wanted one of those. My dad sounded so serious. “You and I are the only ones in this apartment. Tell me the truth,” he said. And I confessed, sobbing. He held me tight and told me everything was going to be all right. He told me that lying to people and to yourself could get to be a habit. It is hard for people who lie to keep all those lies straight. He wanted me to become someone with integrity (which he made me look up in the biggest dictionary I had ever seen.) The last thing he said was to always remember, “The truth will set you free.” He was right. It was a small sin using up all of his shaving cream and lying about it. It probably wouldn’t have propelled me into a life of crime. But it was the most stressful 15 minutes of my short life to that point. It was a painful lesson at the time but no doubt he saved from far more painful ones. It wasn’t the last mistake I made by a long shot. But he was right then. And he would be right now. The truth really will set you free.
I picked this photograph for this post because it really feels like freedom to me.
The Skagit Wild
(1/160 sec., f/5.6, 55 mm, 200 ISO)