stolen saturdays by parenthesized

1 Mar

His daughter, Annie, sits on the dew-dampened grass of her grandmother’s backyard.  Green stains streak across her white sundress, but her mother is not there to scold her, and Sam could not convince himself to ruin her fun.   No one in the family, or, at least, his family, could.  Annie always rushed into his arms whenever he had visitation.  She would bound forward and take a running leap, clinging to him as if her life depended on it.  She was too young to know how much his life depended on her.

His ex-wife was raising Annie to be a demure little doll, someone she could dress up and parade before her new husband’s society friends.  She never cared that Annie hated the performances and the brunches where she had to recite insipid poetry her mother made her memorize.  Sam wanted to give his daughter grass stains, mud pies, bruises gained by great adventures chasing butterflies.  That was the childhood he had wanted for her, but the courts had disagreed, so here he was, her father, stealing hours on every other Saturday to be with her.

He watches Annie as she laughs and lies down, spreading her skinny arms as wide as they can go.  Her fingers pull at the blades because they are smooth and wet and cool she tells him.  She calls for him to join her, and he does package in hand.  “I promised you a present,” he says, holding the package just out of her reach.

“Thank you, Daddy!  What is it?”

“Well, I know how much you love math…”  He holds back a laugh at her look of disgust.  “But I think you might like this more.”

Soon enough the bright green paper lies in strips on the lawn.  On top of the paper sits her gift, leather-bound sketchbook with a simple metal clasp.  He included colored pencils, markers, and crayons.  (A small part of him hopes her mother will be annoyed by the bright color that deviates from the endless shades of beige that populate her house.)  She hugs the journal to herself and runs to the porch.  “Grandma Margaret!  Look what Daddy got me.  It’s so pretty!”

Inside the journal he wrote:


Don’t color outside the lines.  You can put the lines where you want them.



He hopes that she will always have a piece of childhood with her, that she can create her own joy beyond their too short Saturday afternoons.

5 Responses to “stolen saturdays by parenthesized”

  1. jmforceton March 1, 2010 at 2:52 am #

    “Grandma Margaret! Look what Daddy got me. It’s so pretty!”
    Do we know this woman?

  2. jadamthwaite March 1, 2010 at 5:40 pm #

    I like how the maths was incidental here… and I love the message in the sketchbook. I imagine Annie will look back on that so fondly in years to come…

  3. mpeonies March 3, 2010 at 10:00 pm #

    i liked this. many of the images echoed of Lolita. beautiful details! ps. NOT CORNY.

  4. phoenix.writing March 7, 2010 at 4:25 pm #

    I’ve never heard quite that twist for “colour within the lines” before; I like it because I can imagine it coming in very useful for Annie, a way for her to balance between the world of her mother and father. Her mother will clearly have lots of lines that she’s supposed to stay within the boundaries of, and rather than offering completely contrary information (hard to be stuck between the parts in that way), her dad’s just showing her sneaky ways to get round those rules rather than breaking them. I hope he gets to keep bringing her a happy childhood. ^_^


  1. afraid by parenthesized | the character project - May 2, 2010

    […] We met an older, wiser Sam in stolen saturdays. […]

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