I wrote this song for my father several years ago on Father’s Day because I couldn’t bear to buy him one more friggin’ shirt.
When I was just a little Dani, about four or five years old, my father invented a character called, The Tickle Monster. This was long before Josie Bissett’s, Tickle Monster Laughter Kit, complete with cuddly tickling mitts. I’m not sure why you would need a kit to tickle someone, but whatever. This was also before Tickle Me Elmo. I like to think that my dad was the original. So I do.
My brother and I shared a bedroom in a cozy two bedroom apartment, and when my parents were home and not acting like the 24 and 25 year old’s that they were; that is, partying with the downstairs neighbors, my dad would often don a hat or some other random piece of clothing (sans mitts) that he used to ‘mask’ his true identity, and he’d become, The Tickle Monster.
We’d hear growling, monster-like noises outside of our bedroom, and as the sounds grew louder, we knew that he was getting close. The anticipation was exciting and I could feel my body tense up. Before too long, our door would fly open and my dad would come barreling in, often tripping over a Tonka truck or a Dr. Seuss Book. His arms flailing, hunched over, so as to look more menacing, and then he would pretend to look for us. We were right there in front of him, jumping up and down on our beds, screaming, waiting. He took his time, relishing in the sound of our little kid screams.
He went over to my brother first because he was intensely ticklish, and an easy target. My brother laughed until he would be gasping for air. Someone would only have to threaten to tickle his feet, and he’d start to wig out, retreating into a corner, hoping to hide from the tickles. Watching my brother squirm and shriek like a little girl, made me giggle.
I, on the other hand, was never ticklish and I’m still not. Seeing his two kids, laughing together in the same room instead of beating the crap out of each another, was sheer happiness for my father. Even at the tender age of four, I sensed his joy, so how could I tell him that, just like the character of Morales in, A Chorus Line, “I felt nothing.”
My dad loved playing the part, so when he tried to make me laugh, I feigned smiles and giggles, and did my best acting job. I know this particular brand of play was out of his comfort zone. My dad was more the reading and writing type of father; the parent that supervised homework, exposed me to Miles Davis, quoted Rolling Stones lyrics, and read Crime and Punishment to me at bedtime. He wasn’t so much into kid games or child-like make-believe, but he put his heart and soul into The Tickle Monster and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.
I have always had a special relationship with my father. I know a lot of daughters must say this, but mine is truly the most special. Ever. I am my father’s daughter, almost to a fault. Almost. We share the same wicked sense of humor, eat too fast and think too much.
From the time that I was twelve or thirteen, my dad knew exactly who I was, and thirty years later, little has changed. Recently, I reread a letter that he wrote to me when I graduated from high school. At the time, I passed it off as a father being a fearful parent. How wise that Tickle Monster was.
“Firstly, you seem to be an anxious young bird who has learned how to fly, and now is trying to examine every tree in the forest. I can assure you that you will do that but racing to them will defeat your purpose and you will not maximize your enjoyment of them. Like constructing a building with blocks, a foundation must be laid before the spire can be placed on top.
Unless you have certain experiences to call upon, you may miss out on some wonderful fun. You know that I have never stopped you from exploring some very dark places; yet I am fearful of you missing something because of a lack of patience. Sometimes it is better to sit by the ocean and look at the sea, sense it and slowly feel it come over you, slowly and with all of its feeling, comfort and awe. Oh, yes, it is great fun to dive in, but how many people who do that could tell you the color of the sea and how beautiful it smells. Most times the short term is not as fulfilling.
And yes, each day is a challenge to your moral sense. Each day you will have to make up your own mind as to what to do- (unless you want to call us). You know how much I love you as my daughter, but now as you begin to leave the nest and start to fly, I relish in the fact of how much I like you. And remember our telephone number is 238…. Love, Dad.”