“Never park near anyone!” My father pulled cautiously into the remote corner of the Mayfair parking lot. I never understood why we never simply parked in an open space or let the valet park our car. Life is not about relentless perfection; it is about taking chances and learning from mistakes. Growing up I watched my father park in the most remote corners of the country club parking lots, the parking space farthest away from his office door, and miles away from any mall entrance.
I have always looked up to my father. As a young girl I observed how he interacted with people, how he ran his business, and how he raised our family. Some unspoken power lay in his superiority. He seemed to have the answer to everything. Naive to the world around me, I simply watched as my father passed judgment on anyone he deemed lesser. Somewhere in the rubble of building his new, attractive lifestyle my father lost memories of when he too was human.
“Phi Beta Kappa” and “Duke” are the two words I learned while other children were learning “daddy”. I was born his predetermined vision and raised to be the carbon copy. “We don’t get along because we’re too much alike,” my father would tell me as if I should be proud. He unintentionally taught me the art of argument in pushing me to become his replica. “I was a Phi Beta Kappa at Duke,” he blurted as he introduced himself on Parents’ Weekend. What he really meant was, “Hello, I’m Frederick Reeser. I’m Claire Reeser’s father”. Class after class I would sit back as he conducted the lab or asked a question of the teacher, which he in turn answered himself. I could not help but wonder why the one day about my hard work had to be reflective of his. How could I go from daddy’s girl to daddy’s disappointment?
“You will never be as successful as I am!” My father swung the car abruptly to the side of the road deciding to return me to school. “Claire ruins Christmas every year,” he deliberately told my mother as I walked down the staircase. I sat listening to the words. I had been deemed a selfish, spoiled bitch for having angered my father time and again. Unfortunately I have been blessed with a flamboyant memory. Every failed attempt to satisfy, escorted by a hurtful comment, inhabits the corner of my mind like his favorite Range Rover in the parking lot; carefully hidden from peril.
I am surrounded by people the same age as myself, yet I know half as much as. I know the cost of a Range Rover, but have no idea how to manage money. I have a debit card, but no idea how to keep a check book. How do I deal with taxes? What are good stocks to buy into? I have no idea. While our family was so consumed in the physical happiness brought about by money, we forgot what it is to be human. I am not saying I do not appreciate all my father has done for me, because I do. I know he has worked hard all of his life, and I am very proud of that. I am not Fred Reeser; I am Claire Reeser. I have my own story; a story unlike his.
“Claire, you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar!” Turning into a teenager unleashed a beast filled with opinions and hormones. What once was understood as the final answer became an opportunity to challenge, to push the limits.
“You say I can’t get my bellybutton pierced. Why? What is so wrong with a piercing? Let me tell you because I know. You’re afraid I will not get a good job or worse not get into Duke!”
Lingering on the line between Culver and the so-called “real world” the time has come to dismiss sullenness; it is time to come to terms with father logic. My father is the protective driver wary of scratching his posh image. I am the free spirited, strong-minded driver unafraid to explore the back roads; although I may take a wrong turn along the way I learn from the mistakes. Our different beliefs, dreams for me, and childhoods mutually fortified our relationship. He has taught me to believe in myself and remain strong no matter how feeble I may feel. I have coached my father in the sport of patience, reasoning, and understanding. His beloved Range Rover has been entrusted to me. She now gets to meet new people as the valets cautiously lead her to practical spaces in the lot. I fear not for her safety because I believe in valet parking.
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