How to Embarrass Your Daughter

Father and daughter walking in the forestOn the day before we left London, Jill and I volunteered for laundry duty. A coin-operated place was a short walk from our hotel – thankfully because our mesh green bag was large, heavy, and quite awkward to carry. I finally slung it over my back like a sack of potatoes.

“Dad, stop!”

“What?”

“You look like a Hobo.”

Sure, my face was full of stubble and my hair uncombed – but a Hobo?

Jill grabbed the other end of the bag. “We’ll both carry it.”

This common episode was just another entry in the parade of mortified moments I caused in the life of my fourteen-year-old daughter. Thank God we got along.

Jill was the middle child that refused to be a middle child. She was strong and independent from day one. She was never your typical little girl. She preferred playing catch with the boys than Barbie dolls with the girls. At age three, we put her in ballet, but while the other girls lined up and awaited directions, Jill bent over and waved at us from between her legs. We put in her softball only to watch her spin cartwheels in the outfield. Soccer was fast moving and kept her attention, so that became her game.

When she was around six, she and I joined a fathers and daughters program called the Indian Princesses at our local YMCA. The campouts were a blast – outdoor activities during the day and at night the Dads played poker while the girls raised hell around the camp. It gave Jill and I a chance get closer. We had great discussions on the drives up and back. I’d return her home with messy hair, dirty clothes, and a chocolate stained face (one of the Dads operated a candy storage warehouse and would bring boxes of candy bars to the campouts).

The Laundromat was tiny and deserted, so several washers were available. As we filled the last of our clothes into the fourth washer, a young couple joined us. Judging by their very small load, I assumed they used this place every day.

Anticipating that we’d have some idle time, Jill brought UNO cards. She lucked out and won the first game…and the second. I was shuffling the cards (the job bestowed upon the loser) when Jill started giggling.

“What?”

“You don’t know how to shuffle, Dad.”

“I can shuffle!” While fanning the cards, one flew across the room. At that moment the young girl opened her dryer and the card nearly flew in. “Hey!” she yelled to her boyfriend in a high pitched voice. “Hey!” She sounded like a drunk trying to get the attention of a bar tender. Her boyfriend wore headphones and was lost in a magazine. She walked over and flicked him on the head. “They are not dry yet!” she held a pair of underwear in front of his startled and confused face.

Still giggling, Jill whispered: “It’s only been in ten minutes.”

We continued our game while discreetly watching this couple. It was better than TV – everything they did, the interaction between them, how they struggled with this simple task – seemed so comical.

Our clothes eventually dried and we packed them into the clean hobo bag and started for the door. “Is that ours?” Jill pointed to a wet piece of tear-away pants sitting atop a dryer. I shook my head then nodded toward the couple.

We returned to our room and found Chris standing there, the bottom part of one pant leg missing.

Back at the laundry, we were pleasantly surprised to find the owner’s wife had a care package waiting for us. She’d compiled Jill’s sweater (which we never even realized we’d washed), Chris’s pant leg, a pair of wet boxer shorts, and the UNO card box. Jill and I thanked her repeatedly then bolted for the door. We laughed all the way back – especially once we realized the boxer shorts weren’t ours.

NEXT: Leaving London Town

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