The glowing Christmas-tree lights and a small lamp on the end table illuminate my father's face. His bright hazel eyes watch expectantly as I pull the florescent-pink ski jacket from the gift box and stand to try it on.
"It's great!" I exclaim, straightening it around my shoulders.
"So, you like it?" he inquires.
"Yeah, I've been needing a new jacket," I reply, thrusting my hands into the pockets. My hand closes around the reason for my dad's mischievous grin. I pull the black, rubbery, palm-size fly from its hiding spot.
"Gotcha!" teases Dad; "Did you think I'd forget?"
This isn't any ordinary rubber insect. It's been in the family for more than twenty years. One Christmas, after the divorce, my dad and I lived in Navy housing in San Pedro, California. That Christmas was different from the ones when my parents were still married. My mother was living in Long Beach with my stepfather. Even though Long Beach is just over the bridge from San Pedro, it still felt like my mom was a million miles away. I know it must have been hard for my father to find much worth celebrating that day, but he still gave his lonely six-year-old something to laugh about by stuffing this disgusting rubber fly into one of her Christmas roller skates. The next year, I wrapped the fly up with my gift to him. Laughing, he pulled it from the box of Old Spice Cologne. He was surprised, I think, that I'd thought to do it myself.
In the years that followed, on Christmas and on birthdays the familiar fly would make the rounds. When my dad moved to Minnesota and I was living in California with my mom, we would mail our fly back and forth with our gifts to each other. That fly, like my father was one of the few things I could count on. Now that I live near my dad, we don't have to mail our fly. Memories of our life together are tucked beneath its pale molded wings.
"Michelle," repeats my dad, drawing me back to the present, "You knew I wouldn't forget, didn't you?"
"Yeah, Dad," I reply thoughtfully, "I knew you wouldn't forget."
©2001 Michelle M. Rapp
The rubber fly is still exchanged on special occasions, and I value it almost as much as this story my daughter wrote. mdk