by Amanda Grace Shu
For my Earthdad
Each time he comes home, his face changes. He is an old man at her birth, a youth at her third birthday party, and a fifty-something when he walks her to her first day of kindergarten. She hears the adults mutter about how Clare's mother can't keep a husband longer than a year, and Clare can barely suppress her giggles. You don't get it. All those men--they're all one husband.
She tells her second-grade class, My daddy is in space.
Oh, says the teacher. You mean he's an astronaut.
What does that mean?
Someone who goes into outer space in a big rocket ship to explore the universe.
The next time he comes, he's thirty with curly brown hair and she asks him why he doesn't have a rocket ship like a real astronaut. "Astronaut" just means "star sailor," Clare. You don't have to sail the stars with science.
Then what do you sail them with?
He sticks his tongue out slightly. That's for us to know and the rest to find out, eh, Clare-bear?
Clare curls up under his arm. He strokes her hair and watches the evening news, correcting the headlines under his breath.
Clare Young, please report to the office, your father is here.
At twelve, Clare's not too old for her face to light up at the announcement. In the main office, she greets a bespectacled young man with an infectious grin. Hey, Dad, she says, trying to hide her excitement. She fails, miserably.
Hey, Clare-bear. Ready to fly?
They walk towards his car. She straps herself in the front seat and says, Where are we going? Or when? Ooh, is it the Roaring Twenties? Partying with the Fitzgeralds?
Not till you're older. Turn twenty-one and we'll talk. He bops her on the head. But you are thirteen now, and your mother promised me I could take you to the moon on your thirteenth birthday!