July 21st, 2007 was a beautiful day. I remember how the sun filtered in through the windows of my dad’s truck as he drove me from Farmington down to Harrison, the town where I grew up and my parents still lived. I stuck a hand outside and felt the warm air push it back.
It had been less than 24 hours since I had called my mom to tell her I was pregnant. Earlier in the week, before everything was different forever, I had planned to spend the weekend at my parents. Mike was working third shift all weekend, it was supposed to be gorgeous out, what better way to spend my time than on the lake, at home. I didn’t have a car or a license, so it was up to my parents to retrieve me. The fact that I had no way to transport myself had never seemed like a particularly big problem until that weekend, when I both realized I would need to be able to drive my eventual baby places, and more immediately, that I would have to spend quite a while alone in the car with one of my parents.
I was relieved, however, when my mom told me dad would be coming to pick me up. My dad is a big man, tall, and bearded, sort of a better kempt version of a Hell’s Angel. Even as a grown woman, being near him immediately makes feel like a small child. There is no amount of growing I could do that would ever bring me close to his size. That idea brought me comfort when my mom told me that it would be my dad coming to get me that day. I was his little girl and he wasn’t going to yell at me. This was not a guarantee with my mom, the woman who I had been taller than and outweighed since middle school.
The first few minutes of the drive that morning were silent. We were puttering quietly through downtown Farmington, passing one of the oldest buildings on the university’s campus before my dad finally spoke.
“Don’t tell your mom this, but I’m kind of excited.”
I think it was relief that washed over me, mingled with a kind of permission to be excited as well. See, if Dad could get on board with all of this then really, Mom couldn’t stay mad at me forever.
Almost as if reading my mind, my dad then said, “But don’t think this means I’m happy. How could you guys be so stupid?”
I didn’t really have a response to this. We had been careful, we thought. I was on birth control, though, admittedly, I’ve never been one to remember to take medicine on a regular basis. This excuse didn’t exactly fly with my dad.
“You’re whole future depends on you taking that! You can’t mess around with birth control. Just take the damn pill.” Whatever relief I had felt from his earlier admission dissipated and I slumped back into my seat, sulking.
It was around this point in the ride that I realized something truly horrifying. In all the chaos of learning that I was pregnant I had forgotten what day it was. It was July 21st. Today was the day Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released.
“Dad, I have to go back to the apartment.”
“I need to wait for the mail. I think it comes around noon.” My dad took his eyes off the road long enough to give me his best look of incredulity.
“No. That’s two hours away. What could you possibly need?”
I was reluctant to say. My dad, though an avid reader, did not fully appreciate the beauty that is Harry Potter. I had been reading the novels since I was eleven (one of those many children who was devastated to never get her letter from Hogwarts), and had essentially grown up with Harry. If there was one thing that was going to get me through this weekend with my parents, it was going to be him.
“I…I just need to go back. I’m expecting a package.”
“Mike will bring it in when he gets home.”
“Yeah, but it’s, like, really important. It’s a book, and…” Dad made the connection. He may not read the Potter books, but also didn’t live under a rock. He sighed.
“I’m not waiting around until noon.” We were coming up to the local Walmart that sat at the edge of Farmington. Quickly, my dad switched lanes and took the right that brought us into the super center’s parking lot.
“Stay here,” was all he said as he hopped out of the truck.
Less than ten minutes later he came back to the truck with a heavily burdened, single gray plastic bag. As he got into the truck he passed me the bag.
“I figured your mom would want a copy, too.” Inside there were two books. I touched one of the covers delicately and smiled.
“Thanks, Dad. Thank you so, so much.”
“Figured it’ll keep you and your mom occupied this weekend.”
The drive between Farmington and Harrison is about an hour and a half. It was not an easy drive. Despite his excitement, my dad was mad. With some distance between then and now, I can understand it. I teach young adults, many of whom are young parents. When a student comes to me and tells me she is pregnant, I get a little glimpse of what my father must have felt. I believe that there can be a great deal of joy in a pregnancy, but I also know that when a new life comes into the world, something of the mother’s old life must be sacrificed. My dad was afraid of what my sacrifice would be and frustrated that I didn’t seem to understand that yet.
And I didn’t.