Saturday, June 4, 2011

Papa Bear and the Budding Actress

Last night I had an interesting experience. My daughter had been chosen to be an extra in a movie. So, she spent the day off in movie land doing her thing. She was dropped off in the afternoon, so I knew she would be home late in the evening. I had even warned her mother to please not act too much like a mom when she dropped her off. My connection that had helped to get her a part in the project had informed me that her mother hadn't embarrassed her upon arrival to the set, so I was content and proud of my little girl for taking her first steps toward her dream of a life in the acting world.

All was well. Then about 10pm rolled around. I hadn't heard from my daughter at all. I knew she was working, so I didn't complain. I resisted my urge to text or call her. I figured that if I didn't allow her mother to act like a mom, I certainly couldn't then turn into papa bear when the street lights came on and my kid wasn't home. So, I played it cool. Then midnight came. I mean, two months ago her curfew was 11:30. When she turned 18 I increased it to midnight. But on this night, midnight came and went without a phone call. I could feel the transformation from proud father to papa bear start to begin. I fought it as best I could. Kind of like David Banner fighting the change into the Hulk. He doesn't wanna change. He doesn't wanna do any damage. But he's getting angry.

In my attempt to fight the change, I had a moment of clarity. I flashed back to my days in Philadelphia. I was a young musician roaming the streets of Philly in search of jazz experience. I remembered sitting in on jam sessions at Ortlieb's Jazz House and strolling into my apartment at whatever o'clock in the morning. I remembered going to New York City with my brother and staying out until the sun came up. It was the life of a young jazz musician, and I loved every minute of it. I also remembered how my mother would call and yell at me for being out all night and not checking in. I used to laugh. I used to say, "If I die, I'll call you. If you don't hear from me, that means I'm fine."

So here I am sitting up worrying about my baby girl. I know exactly where she is. I even know that a trusted friend is there to look out for her. But when your baby girl is out all night for the first time, none of those facts seem to matter. So, when she sent me a text a 4:40am that read, "We're done. Come get me..." what I really wanted to do was go into full blow papa bear. I wanted to yell. I wanted to go down there and break stuff and demand answers from the fool who kept my baby out all night. I resisted. I responded to her message with, "Call me." That phone call went exactly like my phone calls with my mother used to go. She said, "I'm fine. Why are you bothering me?" That was about it. I felt my claws coming out.

I thought it best to have our friend drive her home so as to insure that papa bear didn't make an appearance on set. When she finally got in at 5am, I had been up all night waiting for her. I had been snapping at my fiance for no reason. I had been dreaming up every catastrophe I could imagine. She strolled in, tired and happy. "How was it," I asked. "Fine," she answered, and went to bed. No details. No stories. No explanations. I went to my room and attempt to change back from papa bear into regular old dad.

My baby girl just finished high school a few days ago. She's got months before she even goes off to acting school, and she's already giving me fits. Last night made me realize what my mother went through with my brother and I out roaming the streets as jazz musicians. It gave me a glimpse of what the next few years might look like for me.

I see a lot of ripped jeans in my future.

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