My daughter Meaghan is totally put off by the fact that this blog centers around her brother Mike and the youth sports pursuits that he and I engage in together. Of course, this 20 year-old still holds a grudge from the day ten years ago when I used his birthday numbers as a password for one of my internet accounts instead of hers.
She’s also a 3.89 at the University of Richmond, something of a high achiever across the board, and one of her most endearing traits is that though she might sometimes be wrong, she is never in doubt. Once when she was in a particularly princessy frame of mind as a senior in high school who was somehow in charge of the world, I addressed her. My objective was to hand her a bit of humility with a strategically constructed question.
“Tell me, Meaghan,” I asked in a mock serious tone for effect. “What is it like to know everything about everything?”
With just a very brief pause enabling her to revel in her recognition of my attempt at putting her in her place, she responded, “Feels pretty good, actually.”
Of course, she forgot to mention that just a few months earlier she had failed her first driver’s test (rolled right through a stop sign). Similarly, she neglected to recall this observation that she made about Greek life at the University of Richmond: “I’m not sure I like this. If 45 per cent of the boys are in fraternities and 45 per cent of the girls are in sororities, that means 90 per cent of the students are Greek.” She recognized the gaffe immediately but that was too late and we will forever have that arrow in our quiver.
So this young lady is the star of the weekend as Richmond’s junior year Ring Dance takes center stage this past February. It is a wonderful event born of a longstanding tradition of women’s pride at one of America’s great educational institutions in one of our country’s great southern cities.
The men wear tuxedoes, the girls wear gowns for a blockbuster Saturday night party at the famed Jefferson Hotel. The highlight of the evening is the father escorting the daughter down this magnificent staircase with the young lady receiving her class ring from the Dean of the school on the bottom step.
You can imagine the amount of cost and effort during the preceding months as the three women in my household went about finding that gown. It was “Father of the Bride,” cubed. Since I was paying, I didn’t want to have to do anything but show up. Who was I kidding? I had to get measured for a tux. Then I had to go pick up the tuxes (Mike had to wear one, too). As usual, I tried to maintain my sanity by just going with the flow and we rolled into the weekend in pretty good shape. Drove down to Richmond on Friday and with all our formal wear dominating the back seat of the car I was glad that my wife, Kathi, had insisted the gown go back to Richmond when Meaghan returned to school in January.
Because we were four people (mother, grandmother, Mike and me), we had a suite at the hotel while Meaghan was staying with other girls in a room on another floor. The plan was for Meaghan to get dressed in our suite, where the mom and grandmom could primp and pamper her in the manner to which she has become accustomed.
Saturday morning comes and Mike and I are pretty juiced. The deal is that the girls are going to be gone for hours beginning at noon and we could do whatever we wanted. Just had to be back by 4 p.m. A quick check of the neighborhood turned up a YMCA right across the street. When we asked at the front desk we got more good news. The hotel had an arrangement with the Y and we could come and go as we pleased all day. Even we couldn’t play hoops for more than four hours at a time.
Great basketball with some of the Richmond hoops cognoscenti who congregate at the gym on a Saturday morning. We learned some new drills and did our thing for hours, went to lunch and were obediently back at the hotel by 4 p.m.
At that exact time, a call comes in from the Princess, who was undeniably in charge this particular day. And she was acting like it.
“Dad,” she stated dictatorially. “The girls are behind schedule. You and Michael have to both be in and out of the bathroom by 4:30 p.m. Got it?”
She had no real interest in any response, but I dutifully acknowledged the order and hung up the phone. I then told Mike that we’d have to hurry and that I would go first, thinking that I’d then be available to take additional orders upon their return.
So, in a rush, I walk into the bathroom and take off all my clothes. Somewhat uncomfortable in these unfamiliar surroundings and naked to boot, I hurriedly reached in and turned on the shower. I then wheeled around toward the sink to locate my toiletries before continuing the clockwise rotation toward the shower.
At that moment, my eyes fell upon the sight of Meaghan’s gown hanging on the shower curtain rack, far wider than the tub itself, undoubtedly being hit by the stream of water from the showerhead.
I let out a noise that Michael describes as a dinosaur in labor, some sort of heaving utterance that was somehow both loud and breathless. I lunged to turn off the water and paused to ask myself if what seemed to have happened had actually happened. Was it possible that on this weekend that we had been talking about for the past three years, on a day when I was willing to just do what I was told so that Meaghan’s experience could be as perfect as possible....was it possible that I had ruined her pristine, white, more-expensive-than-I-ever-want-to-know Ring Dance gown?
Anxiety under control, I gingerly peeled back the adjacent shower curtain and reluctantly surveyed the damage. About one-third of the gown was hit and it appeared to be a rear corner. The water seemed to be beading up a little bit and I began to think that I might not die during the next half hour.
I carefully removed the dress from the bathroom while asking myself what, exactly, was it doing there in the first place. I quickly dismissed the thought that anyone of the female gender would assume even the slightest amount of blame. They surely would have some justification – however inane -- for hanging a ridiculously expensive gown in a bathroom, on the shower curtain rack, well within reach of the water stream, when we had a huge suite with all kinds of unused closet space.
I dabbed it with a towel, said a prayer and plotted the explanation:
• Because they were late, I had to hurry. It was their fault.
• I was uncomfortable in an unfamiliar environment. It could have happened to anyone.
• Everything in the bathroom was white and blended together. Yeah!
• AND WHAT WAS THE GOWN DOING IN THE BATHROOM IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The moment of truth came about 25 minutes later, when Kathi and her mother returned to the room.
Upon seeing the look on my face, Kathi said, indelicately, “What did you do?” Instead of defending myself, I took the high road, relayed the facts and said, “It may not be that bad.”
It wasn’t and we figured that with some strategic logistical maneuvering, Meaghan wouldn’t have to know. Mike managed to keep his mouth shut during the dress up phase and the staircase scene, along with the entire evening, was saved. About six hours and a few underage glasses of wine later, I told a giddy Meaghan the story in the company of several classmates. Her jaw dropped only to her bellybutton instead of the floor, primarily because the day was mostly done.
For the record, here’s what they said about why they hung the dress up on the shower curtain rod:
After three weeks hanging in the dorm, Kathi’s mom thought it would probably be crushed so she went out and bought a steamer. To have access to water in a place where it could hang freely, they decided to place it on the shower curtain rod.
Oh. Okay. I guess.
When I tell the story now, the most amazing thing is the reaction of women when I approach and tell the gown-meets-water part. Some grab my arm, others gasp as if witnessing a murder and others fall into my arms with a hug of empathy when it becomes clear that disaster was avoided.
The men laugh knowingly. Mike just shakes his head.
And we still do those Richmond basketball drills (suicides while dribbling with a between-the-legs bounce on each shift of direction).
And I just count my blessings, remembering that, sometimes, whatever can go wrong, doesn’t.
Thanks, again, for listening. Please post a comment.
Happy Birthday John Daly!
2 years ago