Don’t know if I ever mentioned this before, but when I was pregnant with Julia – before we knew she was a she – Bill firmly believed (or hoped desperately) that our next child would be another boy. Because, according to him, his side of the family only produced boys. The oldest of the three brothers had two sons. The middle brother had – well, a son…and a daughter. But somehow she was dismissed as a fluke, and we were bound to have another boy. According to my husband.
I didn’t care one way or another – I was just looking for a healthy baby. If it was another boy – fine, they could share a room and toys and hand-me-downs. If it was a girl – fine, we’d eventually need to figure out the bedroom situation, but in the meantime, they could share a room and toys and hand-me-downs.
When I was somewhere around the half-way point, we went in for an ultrasound to find out if the baby was developing okay and (Bill’s choice) to find out the gender. I got my way with Alex – I didn’t want to know. So, to be fair, if Bill wanted to know this time, that was okay.
I remember lying on the table twisting my neck around to see the screen during the ultrasound. I loved ultrasounds. I loved seeing the tiny creature growing inside me. Didn’t love the two ultrasounds that gave me bad news, of course. But this was now, and my baby was growning and moving and – presumably – healthy. The woman doing the ultrasound was a pro – quick and efficient and calm. She showed us various bones and said everything was developing normally, everything looked good, right on track, and so forth.
And then – "Did you want to know the sex?" Yep. She was silent for a moment as she moved the scope around, and then – "It’s a girl." Not open to discussion or debate. She was certain.
I burst out laughing. Healthy, first and foremost, and – a girl. I looked over at Bill who, fortunately, was sitting in a chair to my left, not standing. If he had been standing before the announcement, he would have been falling at the word "girl." I know it’s a cliche, but he really had that deer in the headlights look about him. I laughed more. The radiologist pointed out the proof – where something might have been right there between the legs, it very clearly wasn’t in this picture. And she’d been doing this for something like 20 years, so even though there was certainly a possibility that she’d be wrong, she was pretty damn sure she was right.
Bill continued to look shell-shocked for the whole drive home, and remained terrified for the rest of the pregnancy. And several months after Julia was born. She didn’t have boy stuff, she had girl stuff, and girl stuff is scary to men who think they will only father sons.
He got over it, in a way, though I think there is still a part of him that will always be terrified of having a daughter. Not so much because of her, but because fathering a daughter is a whole different ballgame from fathering a son.
As another Bill sang in "Carousel" – "You can have fun with a son, but you gotta be a father to a girl."
It’s scary stuff.
Flash forward a few years.
This morning is foggy and occasionally rainy. A slight breeze sways the treetops, but otherwise all is calm, still. A perfect morning to go trout fishing. Originally Bill was going to take both kids and give me uninterrupted time to type or whatever. But Alex didn’t want to. I told Bill to go alone if he wanted to – I knew he was itching to go. He went downstairs to get a couple of freshwater poles from the racks and a moment later, up came Julia with her pink Barbie pole.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"I’m going fishing!" she announced, in her Dora underwear and her ruby slippers. "I’m going fishing with Daddy!" I told her she’d need a few more articles of clothing on first.
Bill came upstairs and, yep, he was taking Julia with him.
I used to go fishing with my father, and with his father. I was Julia’s age – Julia’s age! – when I caught 14 choggies – little saltwater fish related to blackfish. I seem to remember a photo of me standing with all my catch laid out on a cookie sheet or something. I need to check with my father to see if he has a copy somewhere….
Anyway – this morning.
Bill got Julia dressed warmly and ready to go…
And I took pictures (big surprise) – because this is what I knew would happen, ever since that day in the radiologist’s office when I laughed and Bill quaked. Because this is the wonderful part of fathers and daughters.
And I know – it’s not always like this. I’m doubly blessed – as a daughter, and now, watching my own daughter and her father.
Take your daughter fishing. Teach her to use a hammer and a screwdriver and a saw and a wrench…and how to throw overhand and how to catch with a glove, and how to catch a football and how to shuck scallops and clams and oysters, and how to bait a hook and gut a fish. Or to play guitar. Or whatever.
Not that mothers can’t teach their daughters these things as well. Of course they can. But I’m not talking about that right now.
I’m just smiling here, to myself, because my baby girl and my husband have gone fishing.
And though neither one of them may realize it right now, or for many years, these are special, precious, important times.
You can have fun with a daughter, too.