'When you coming home, dad? I don't know when,
But we'll get together then. You know we'll have a good time then.'
~ Cats in the Cradle, Harry Chapin.
I have a daughter who's 11 going 21.
I see her growing up right in front of my eyes. She was my baby only yesterday. Now the signs of my daughter transforming from a little girl into a young lady is too clear to be missed. And as her father, I am making mental notes for the coming of rebellious 13. I am worried about the messy crushes of 17. I might be heart-broken when she's 21 and leaves home to seek her own life.
Other than the weekend trips to MPH Subang Parade, reading in a little corner together or sending her to her dance classes on Saturday afternoon, I really don't see enough of her. She goes to sleep at 9.00pm so that she can wake-up at 6.00am to go to school.
I often get home only at 9.30pm.
Most days, I miss my daughter badly. At least that's how I felt last night.
The night before she went to bed, she reminded me to buy her mandarin oranges. She love mandarin oranges and she said I should get her 10 for Chinese New Year. When I got home about 9.30pm, and as I watched the auto-gate open slowly, I realised I did not have the mandarin oranges I promised her. So I shut the gate again and drove off to USJ 4 for a box of mandarin oranges. I bought it from the roadside stall in front of Apollo Restaurant.
When I got home, I passed the box to Saoda, my domestic helper and told her to let my little girl know that I bought her mandarin-oranges when she wakes up in the morning.
I then went for a shower.
Before I sleep, I walked over to her bed and kissed her goodnight. Looking at her sleeping, I wanted to let her know how much I love her and missed her. How often do you need to tell an 11 year old girl you love her? How much is enough for a little girl growing up to be a little lady? I'm not sure. Sometimes when I do get to see her at night, she's tired after a long day at school and cranky at best. And I am often not my best after a long, long day.
I stood there for a moment, thinking.
Then I got an idea.
I went downstairs into the kitchen and took 1 plastic bag from under the sink. I then opened the fridge and took out 2 mandarin oranges. I felt the coolness of the oranges in my palm and then put them into the plastic bag. I then search for a piece of paper inside one of those crayons/color-pencils-filled, and masterpieces-stuffed drawers and wrote a note to my daughter.
I chose my words with care.
Then I put the little note into the plastic bag with the mandarin-oranges. I tied the plastic bag with the 2 mandarin oranges and the little note. Then I unzipped her school bag and placed the plastic bag inside, on top of her exercise books. I then zipped her school bag and patted the oranges and little note over the rough canvass before I went to sleep.
I imagine she would open her bag at school at 7.15am today. For that brief moment, I hope my girl knows how much I love her.