16 October 2013 – 19:53
Little m started taking swimming classes last week. She’s been amazing in the water, the youngest in class to swim across the length of the deep end of the pool, learning the freestyle crawl in less than two minutes, able to float on her back and kick with her legs completely unsupported. She can tread water for two minutes, certainly longer than I could when I learned to swim at age 8. And she’s only 3-1/2! This week, after class, the head instructor handed out temporary tattoos to all the kids in the class. Little m picked a picture of Belle and then asked me how it was supposed to stick. On the drive home, I played up the tattoo, explained that it was like a sticker that stuck to skin with water. I told her that it would be best to put it on after bath so that she could have it all night and probably all the next day, too. At first she wanted to put it on immediately, but then thought better of that idea. “I know,” she said as we pulled into the driveway. “Let’s have dinner, then eat ice cream on the deck, then have a bath, then put on the tattoo, then go straight to bed.”
Great idea, I told her.
And that’s what we did. Until the tattoo part, that is. I have very little experience with these temporary tattoos, and also with reading instructions. Like most men, I think I know everything. In this case, I didn’t. There’s a plastic film over the top of the tattoo to protect it before it gets applied to skin. While m stood in her bedroom, anxiously waiting for me to put this little picture of Belle on her arm, I wet the paper on the back of the tattoo, with the plastic film still in place. I then went to peel off the film, only to find that the tattoo went with it. I tried to recover, tried to put it all back together, tried to dry the thing off, but it wouldn’t work. The tattoo was ruined.
Little m’s face fell. She began to cry. She cried wailing tears. She fell into the arms of her mother and she wept. Mommy told her, “Accidents happen,” and she continued to cry. I rubbed her back and apologized for ruining the tattoo. She continued to cry. I felt awful. So I did what any conscientious father would do.
I drove to the store.
On my way out of the driveway, I called Walmart. They didn’t have any. I was crestfallen. Then I called my local Dollar General store, less than 2 miles from my house. The store manager answered the phone. I asked him if he had any kids’ temporary tattoos.
“Let me walk out onto the floor and see,” he said. I heard him walking, his breathing became a little faster.
I told him, “My daughter got a tattoo as a gift and I ruined it trying to put it on and am trying to save face as a father.”
“I hear you,” he said. I heard plastic flipping. “I’ve got some dinosaurs here, some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Here’s Mickey Mouse and Minnie. Here are some Disney Princesses.”
I stopped him there. “You’ve got the princess tattoos?”
“Yep, right here.”
“I’ll be right there.”
Less than two minutes later I walked into the store. The manager was there. He looked up at me expectantly. “I’m the dad,” I said.
Back home, mommy had talked to m about loss and about how not everything works out the way we plan it. That sometimes things happen that we don’t want to happen, and that we don’t always get what we want. She read to her from Dr. Seuss’s O The Places You’ll Go and explained to her that we didn’t want to get stuck in the waiting place while we waited for things to work out, that m had to learn to take life’s punches and roll with them.
When I came home m was lying quietly in bed, cuddled with one of our cats. I showed her what I had, the exact tattoo I had ruined only fifteen minutes before. “How did you fix it?” she said.
“I’m magic,” I said and winked.
“Did you get it from the store?” she said.
“Yes,” I said. Her face fell a little. It wasn’t the same one she’d had before, but it looked the same and that made her smile. Which she did. Big. I applied the tattoo, and it came out looking perfect. Beautiful. And then I messed it up again.
“There’s only half a Belle on my arm,” she said.
I ran downstairs and got another Belle tattoo. I showed this one to her. Her eyes lit up. “How many did you get?” she said.
I applied this one. She said, “Be careful not to mess this one up, dad.” I smiled.
“Okay,” I said.
And the third tattoo got put on and it looked beautiful. And as I kissed her good night and told her I loved her, I also told her that maybe, if she’s a very good girl, maybe tomorrow she might get Ariel put on her other arm.
I could use more practice, after all.