The last time my dad walked out on our family, I was eight. Despite his having left numerous times before, it was still a shock. After he married my mom, I figured he´d stick around. There was lots of evidence that he wouldn´t but I was eight, and at the time didn´t recognize those signs. When he first left, I would wait. Every Friday night for three months, I would pull a kitchen chair up to the big window in the living room and wait. This drove my mom nuts, and she would ususally end up sitting in the rocking chair, wrapped up in a blanket, sobbing, begging me to just stop. By ten, she would forcefully remove from the window and send me to my room. Even then I would wait. Lying in my bed, the room dark, I would wait for the sound of my father´s boots clomping across the kitchen floor. I would wait for my door to creak open, to see the siloutte of his face in the doorway.
During this waiting I would plan what I would I do when he returned. Initally, my plan was to run into his arms and sit on his lap. I would snuggle against him smelling his sweat and the oil from the chiansaws he ran all day. He would smooth down my hair and call me "Pumpkin". But as the weeks turned into months, my fantasies began to reflect my anger. My plans shifted. I would refuse him love. I would yell insults at hin. How dare he abandoned me to this world of despair? I would make him realize how much he needed my love.
Eventually I stopped waiting.
In June, about six months after he left, I learned that I had recieved a scholarship to attend a Girl Scout camp. I was very excited as I had never been to a summer camp. Girl Scouts was new to me, and through it I had a made a few friends. This camp gave us some bonding time as we made lists plotting what we would bring for clothes to what we would do each day. My friend, Cindy, loaned me clothes and my grandmother promised me suitcase (I sometimes think the only suitcase in the family as everyone used it for the rare trips we took). Thoughts of the camp crowded out thoughts of my father but sometimes late at night I felt a familiar longing to hear his boots against the floor.
About a week before camp, my dad called my grandmother. He wanted me to spend the summer with him and his new family. I was overjoyed until I found out he planned to pick me up the night before I was to leave for camp. I felt torn. My mother left the decision up to me but made it clear that she thought camp was a better option. She pointed that my father often did not pick me up when he said. But camp seemed pale in the warm glow of the feeling that my father wanted me. I choice him. I spent the rest of the week in a golden bubble where I was speical, loved and wanted. I stubbornly pushed away all thoughts that he might not come. I felt like a princess in a faity tale waiting for her prince charming. I envisioned a summer where no one existed for my dad but me.
Friday came slowly--slow in the way that anticipated waiting makes time freeze. Finally the time came to go to my grandmother´s house. My mom, my brothers and I walked over, holding grocery bags with my clothes. At my grandmothers, I packed my few clothes into the big blue suitcase. I ate supper with my grandfather, and then pulled a chair up to the window. I watched a slow summer sunset give way to increasing black. Every breath I drew took hours to fill my chest and escape again. Finally my mother walked me home. She refrained from I told you so but even at eight I could feel the words vibrating in her anger.
As I laid awake, I imgained my friends all at Cindy´s house for the night, anxiously awaiting their first week long camp. They would rise early to pile into a van. I would rise early to wait for yet another day.