Daddy’s house, 1986

1986 daddys house 2

I like it best when Daddy picks us up

to spend the night at his house.

When his wife comes in her van

we sit in the very back

because her cigarette smoke makes us cough.

Sometimes we eat yucky things for dinner

like hominy and clam chowder.

I spit them out because I really don’t like

mealy corn and fishy milk soup

not because she cooked them

even though she probably thinks that’s why.

Also I don’t like the HBO movies

with bad words and naked ladies.

I cover my eyes with my fingers

and my ears with my thumbs

but I’m usually not fast enough.

We sleep in a bunk bed

me on bottom, Sister on top

because I’m afraid to be up high.

Daddy got us karate pajamas that tie shut like a robe

and I wear them because he likes them

even though they’re made for boys.

During the night the pajamas twist open

then I’m cold and naked

so I change into the nightgown I brought

but I put the karate pajamas back on before he sees.

For breakfast Daddy gives us junk food.

He lets us eat peanut M&M’s or warm liquid Jello

that makes my tummy really full later.

We drink orange Tang for vitamin C, Daddy says.

I like to stay outside at his house

to get away from the smoke

and so I can’t hear the mean things she says.

I take my Barbies out on the porch

with my drawing pad and my books.

We have our own bikes to ride too.

One time I secretly picked the neighbor’s cornflowers

in beautiful pink and purple and blue

but Daddy found out and made me say sorry

even though the lady wasn’t mad.

Now I stay by the concrete basin in Daddy’s driveway

where lily-of-the-valley grows.

I like to pull apart the green leaves

to find the tiny white bells

that smell just like heaven.

I want so bad to carry one little stem around

to block out the nasty smoke

but I don’t pick any

because they’re his wife’s flowers.

One time Daddy and his wife had a Halloween party

with grownups that dressed up too.

She showed off in front of her friends

and asked me to give her a kiss

but I never, ever kissed her before

or even hugged her.

But everyone was watching and waiting

and even though I hated it

I put a kiss on her cheek.

Then I ran upstairs and hid

and rubbed my mouth hard with my sleeve.

Some nights Sister and I talk in our bunk beds

real quiet so they don’t hear us.

Sometimes we ask each other

“Do you wish you could go home?”

We want Mommy

but we want Daddy too.

One night we couldn’t sleep

no matter how hard we tried

and we both cried and wished for Mommy.

Even though Daddy was already snoring

we tiptoed into his room and woke him up

and asked him to take us home.

He put on a T-shirt, shorts, and socks

and told us to get our stuff right away.

For just a second I thought I saw him crying

but I’m still not sure.

While he drove us back to our house

I worried that the cops would pull him over

for driving with no shoes on

I worried that he’d be mad at me


and I worried that Daddy will always carry

the hurt I gave him.

I felt so very glad to see Mommy again

and I tried hard to keep it in until he left

but I think a little gladness must have leaked out

because his face looked so sad when he said goodbye.

Mommy’s hug made it better

and she wasn’t mad that we woke her up

and I could tell she held back

some of her own gladness too.

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