It’s Fathers Day. The rainy grey somehow invites contemplation and gratitude for dads, and maybe even a nap later on.
Church today has made me think about Senegal again. (Everything makes me think about Senegal. This is going to last a while.) I knew that I wanted to describe the girls on our trip, and but I wanted to include this special day by saying there are some especially proud fathers of amazing daughters I’ve been blessed to meet and get to know. No doubt, you are happy fathers.
Awesome understates the quality of this group of girls. They are different and intelligent and confident, and I admired them in so many ways.
In addition to being a very enthusiastic French teacher, Britt will totally kick your trash playing soccer. She played with the guys when they competed against the village team, and she stole and swept and scrambled, and honestly, played a lot better than some of the guys. She also plays the violin and everything she does shows her love for life. A natural teacher, she’s emotionally generous. She listens well, she strives to understand others, and she shares her enthusiasm which heightens group dynamics.
Chelsey will argue you into the ground and tell you why she doesn’t like dogs sitting on couches. She’s very politically and socially aware, but she also appreciates good television. She has a pretty awesome scary story about her sister and their bunk bed that only she can tell with the best and greatest effect. She has strong opinions and even stronger convictions, and these definitely contribute to her excellent sense of humor. She was very fun to talk and listen to. She also blessed our bus rides with Jolly Ranchers.
Even though she’s only 19, Chloe she’s quick-witted, feisty, and a champion haggler. She’s also really easy to talk to and a fellow Floridian. She was my roommate, and I got hear stories about her best friends at BYU, shopping adventures, Canasta games with James, touring Saint-Louis on mopeds with James, studying with James, having James tell her he likes her, then dating James – the reason I call him “scandalous.” She’s very independent and strong-willed and way pretty, and if I were James, I’d want to date her, too.
If I could vote for a Most Congenial on the trip, I’d vote for Emily. She makes me happy with her ukulele, which she plays really well. She’s a fascinating, and she wants to make the world a better place. She really could save the world with the things she wants to do with her life. She sang with the village children, and they made each other laugh and smile. Her friendly demeanor made her very approachable on the streets of Dakar. Also, she likes Ingrid Michaelson.
Grace is sick with her French skills and general cheeriness. Her French has a perfect French lilt and her eyes are kind and her face seems to be in a permanent smile. She can express herself in abstracts and have real conversations in French, and she can sort of really bust a move, African style. I often wondered on the trip if she was for real, and she often intimidated me. The more I watched her, the more I realized I was a little jealous. The good kind. Anyway, she’s cool, and she’s friends with another cool girl I know, Camille. Small world.
If anything could make me think about my life and think about my choices, it’s Kylie. She could not possibly be funnier or more brilliant. She had it rough with various diseases inflicted upon her during the trip, but she kept on writing and reading voraciously and ranting hilariously but also she kept not eating because eating made her sick and Madame kept asking at mealtime, Kylie mange? And Kylie would answer, oui, which meant sort of but not really. I can’t get enough of her.
I once told Melanie that she was my préférée. Then she asked if it was because she’s so much taller than I. Then I told her it’s not the only reason. I mean, she’s 6’1″, which I think is awesome, but she’s also very sweet and kind, and I can forgive her for singing Justin Bieber. She’s positive and thoughtful and can also sing better than Justin Bieber, because her range runs from bass to soprano, whereas little Justin only sings soprano. Also, this girl can dance like nobody’s business.
My first real memory of Mindy was during our prep class last semester. She commented on an African film we had to watch about a shark and a griot, and I was impressed with what she had to say. Then she gave me some kids’ clothes to put in my suitcase to donate to the village kids, and she was very friendly. My most dominant memory of Mindy is her laugh, which is incredible and infectious. I want to laugh when I hear her laugh, because whatever she’s laughing at has to be funny. I like funny.
One day, Natalie and I went exploring on the stinky fisherman island and had an amazing experience. She has a holy curiosity and a very gentle manner. She’s really easy to get along with. She always had her camera, and her pictures are really stunning. The people of Senegal are really beautiful anyway, but somehow looking at Natalie’s pictures you felt you understood them better. Also, she arm-wrestled Madame Thompson, and maybe she could have totally won.
Rebecca makes up one-half of one of the coolest married couples in the world. She will probably be the nicest lawyer you will ever know. Except when you try to mess with her. She was the one who massaged my neck when I had a headache, and she also strongly sympathized with those who thought vacation didn’t consist of writing a 6-8 page paper or studying for a midterm. She also shared some Sour Patch Kids with me during a supremely long and boring colloquium and I wanted to scream, but Madame was sitting next to me so I had to behave.
There was the time at JFK when Sarah asked to borrow nail clippers, then we became friends. Then she told the story about how she almost died, but she didn’t, and I felt it was because we were meant to be friends. Then somebody was in love with her. But not Ablaye. Then she tried coaxing a goat to commit suicide. Then she has the most amazing doodles in her notebook I have ever seen. She sings well, but that’s not why I forgive her for singing Justin Bieber. Also, we’re real-life friends. We’ve hung out twice already.
One day on a boat, it was hot and we were on the lookout for hippos and crocodiles, and Stephanie closed her eyes, trying to will away sickness. She has lean, muscular arms that I covet. She’s best friends with Melanie. She once looked at my feet and told me they were little, which I considered more a compliment than an observation. She exudes kindness and easily loves people. She also has a very scary story, but it’s about babysitting, and it made a table of girls scream at dinnertime.
These girls’ lives pay tribute to their fathers, and I wonder how my life reflects upon my dad.
I’m really grateful for the experience of my dad being my dad. Our relationship has taught me the value of work and cleanliness and being orderly and considerate of other people’s time. The strains in our relationship have shown me the different ways the Atonement works: how to forgive, how to find comfort and move forward with life. I’ve learned not to be angry, but instead to have compassion and sympathy and to be a better communicator. He does not even know, and I don’t see the point in telling him. It would only sink him deeper into his life riddled with surgeries and loneliness and merciless cycles of self-pity. He’s my dad. I love him.
It was good talking with him today. I told him about school and Africa, and he told me about the missionaries visiting and his reading the scriptures more. We’re still working out kinks in communication, but things are a lot better than they used to be. I want him to be well and be happy, and I know he did the best he knew how as a father. But what impresses me most is that he’s still trying. He is always sincere with his intentions, and I’ve always felt his love and support. I’m grateful for his discipline, for his hard work, for the sacrifices he made for his family. I’m grateful for his tickling me until I couldn’t breathe and packs of M&M’s my brother and I shared and fudgecicles he bought on his way home from work. I’m grateful for cursive and multiplication tables and spelling bees and band. I’m grateful that he introduced my mom to the church and guided our family on a path to happiness. Those are all significant dad things, and I’m so blessed that my dad did those things for me. I’m grateful that my Heavenly Father gave me the dad I have. I wouldn’t be the person I am now without him.