Kissing Daddy Good-Night


‘Korea. Worlds away from Kirkland, Illinois’

I don’t actually remember any of this, of course. But I grew up hearing about ‘when Daddy was in Korea and we lived at Gramma’s house’.

See, my Dad was a Second Lieutenant in the Air Force. I’m going to check with Mom, but I’m pretty sure he went to college via the ROTC. For you Whippersnappers, that’s the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. Which means, essentially, that you trade getting some $$ to go to school for serving your country when you get out. Of school, I mean. Here Dad is at his graduation. Everyone in this picture, except me, is a Proud Parent. (Though I did eventually become one, as you know all too well.)

My Dad at his U of I graduation. He is holding me instead of his diploma.

My Dad at his U of I graduation. He is holding me instead of his diploma.

So, I had hardly even met my Dad when off he goes. To Korea. He was originally supposed to go to the Philippines with Mom, and me too. (We both got malaria shots in preparation for this; supposedly, one shot makes you impervious to malaria for a lifetime. I’m not eager to test this theory.)

But it turned out that some important papers needed to go to Korea, and an officer needed to take them. My Dad was an officer; he was ‘volunteered’, and off he went. When I was little I had this vision of these papers in a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist. I was pretty sure that was only a romantic notion of mine till I checked with Mom just now and found out that this was absolutely true.

Well, no Philippines for us. No Korea, either. There was a ‘conflict’ going on there, so icks-nay on the oing-gay. Instead, since my mom was really young, I was even younger, and there was another baby on the way, it made sense for Mom and me (and the future Scott) to move back home with Mom’s parents and siblings for the duration.

My Uncle Ronald (who called me Little Toot) got married and left, and my Uncle Mark got sent to Japan (Navy?). But my Uncle Karl and Aunt Marilyn were in high school, so definitely still around. Plus, of course, Gramma and Grandpa Peterson. They made a fair-sized audience for my antics, and apparently I took advantage of the situation and became very spoiled indeed. I think they even called me ‘Imperious Alice’. Oh well, it was good preparation for survival in the New York Ad World, if nothing else.

A couple of years went by. There wasn’t much phoning (too expensive, too difficult). Though I do think my Dad got a phone call when my brother was born. I certainly hope so, anyway. But there was a lot of picture-sending and letter-writing. I know this because we kids were allowed to dig through a big box of family photos on rainy days. There is one photo I remember in particular (but, alas, cannot find) of me holding a toy telephone. There is Mom’s writing on the back: ‘Hello, Daddy!’

Eventually, Dad did get to come home.

I was told that when he walked through the door I hid behind my mother’s skirts. ‘Go kiss your daddy!’ my mother urged. So I ran into my bedroom and came back with his picture — the picture I had been kissing good-night for two years — and kissed it, fervently, while glaring at this total stranger trying pitifully to coax me into a hug.

Thanks, Dad. For being a veteran. And being my Dad.

Even if you aren’t related, you might enjoy more stories featuring my Dad. Check out ‘Dad Eggs and Ham’, in which he stars, and ‘Happy Ho-Made Halloween’ , ‘That’s my Bob’, and ‘To Hell with Kale’, in which he makes memorable cameo appearances. And then there is ‘My Mom, the Party Girl’, featuring my Mom, who is equally cool, and, even more important, Still Here.

Thank you for reading. And if you still have your parents, and they are within arm’s reach, hug them. Right now.

New York City. November 2014




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30 thoughts on “Kissing Daddy Good-Night

  1. Unbound Roots

    What a perfect post for this Veteran’s Day, Alice. It really is perfect as I just watched a video my childhood friend had posted a video of her husband returning from a 9-month stint in Egypt (204th Medical Company for the National Guard). A local news station had captured the moment her husband ran into her arms, met his youngest daughter for the first time (she was 5 months old when he returned), and was trying to coax is 3-yr. old daughter from behind mom’s legs. I love that you ran to your room to get the photo of your father. What a precious memory. Thanks to your father for his service!

    • So glad you enjoyed this story, Erin. I’m also glad that I have no memory of this happening (!) Unlike many little girls less lucky, I was able to go on to spend a wonderful childhood with both my father and my mother. I wish I could thank my father for you, but alas, he died almost ten years ago. He did have a rich and wonderful life — and he was so happy to reach his 80th birthday. I think I’ll go call my mother now. I am so lucky that she’s still here!

  2. This is lovely and sad at the same time. Very hard time for your family and cute story about the photo. My 7 year old just said to me “mummy are you crying”? I could picture your dad returning home and you getting his photo.

  3. josypheen

    Your poor dad! It must have been strange to arrive and see you kiss his picture!

    At least you got to spend time with him after that! 🙂

  4. John Colledge

    This heading caught my eye as I well remember the one and only time my own father hit me really hard, and boy did I deserve every ounce of effort he put into it!

    I guess I must have been about six or seven at the time, certainly old enough to know that what I was about to do was very very wrong. My dad asked if I would give him ‘a night-night kiss’. As he was having problems with his back at the time he wasn’t able to bend down to my height. Easy solution. I would stand on a kitchen chair.

    While pushing a chair into the middle of the room, a slight argument began on my shoulders. The little devil on my left shoulder was in favour of taking this rare opportunity to carry out a serious scientific experiment, whereas the little angel to my right pointed out that there would probably be consequences….. if I head-butting my poor unsuspecting parent on the chin!

    Well, the little angel ended up with a bloody nose, a few missing teeth and some seriously ruffled feathers. The little devil managed to persuade me that I only had a small head, (all be it quite hard). My dad’s chin on the other hand appeared to be huge and as solid as a rock. And from where I was standing, wasn’t that a target on the end of it? Oh! And he had asked me to spell whatever words we had to learn for spelling homework that night… out of order. He had it coming to him!

    Bull’s eye! Experiment completed. An overwhelming success. I had done the deed, which must have hurt like… (add appropriate swear word). A split second after the self-satisfied smile appeared on my face… I had a well-deserved proverbial ‘thick ear’ and was reduced to a howling wreck. Do you remember back to when you were small and something upset you so much that when you cried you couldn’t breath properly? Your chin seemed to tremble and you were only capable of making odd little fuh fuh fuh fuh noises, (not dissimilar to Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs come to think of it)? I was still doing that next morning as I apologised to my poor father, who was only capable of a rather cross grunt.

    Oddly enough, we never spoke of this incident again. Can’t think why!

    Isn’t the Internet wonderful? Out of idle curiousity I looked up the origins of the expression ‘A Glagow Kiss’. I hasten to add that at the tender age of six or seven, I had no idea what this was and would hate to think I was some sort of trend-setter in the south-west of Scotland! Here are a couple of results from Urban Dictionary and Uncyclopedia. Those of a sensitive nature should probably think twice before going any further. ☺

    By a really strange quirk of fate, one of the other members of my creative writing class mentioned after I had read out my piece plus the extract from Urban Dictionary, that some of his relations actually lived in Crown Street in the Gorbals area or Glasgow. When it was demolished to make way for better housing, his uncle asked if he could keep the street name. It apparently holds pride of place in his stting room, having been taken with him when he emigrated to, guess where? America!

    On a more serious note, I was interested to see that your grandparents’ surname was Peterson. For some reason, I assumed it was of Scandinavian origin, but of course that that’s probably Petterson. Low and behold, it is of Scottish origin. If you ever cross the pond again looking for your own roots, you must drop by Edinburgh to see us.

    You are probably aware of this site, but just in case you’re not, here it is anyway:

    Kind regards to both of you,

    John Colledge

    • Wonderful story, Mr. C! I had absolutely no knowledge of the Glasgow Kiss. But now I’ll never forget it! Thank you for your beautifully written and thoroughly researched comment. I love the Peterson Family Crest! My Personal Petersons were of the Swedish persuasion (check out my story titled ‘Proof that Swedes are geniuses’ for some anecdotal background), but perhaps we have some Scottish cousins. It would be fun to come over and look for them (!)

  5. Myrna Henry

    I wrote a comment saying how much i enjoyed this ! Don’t know where it went. [i am notorious for my lack of computer expertise. Sigh] Thank you for all your posts. I find them witty and charming……and I’m not just saying this because I’m your mother……..

  6. Ruth Meisenheimer

    Yes, Gen. Dean’s suspension bridge is still there and was rehabbed by the city under the direction of Henry, Meisenheimer & Gende Engineers a number of years ago.

  7. Ruth Meisenheimer

    Good story!! The new Carlyle library just had a program about the Korean War and a special tribute to a native son, Gen. William F. Dean who served in WWII and then came home a hero from the Korean conflict. I’m sure he was the only “Carlylian” to grace the cover of time magazine! And, I always thought Wayne looked like a Henry too!

    • Yes, I remember General Dean. Is ‘his’ bridge still there? We kids used to like to walk across the Kaskaskia River on it, even though it didn’t really go anywhere (except across the river). I didn’t know the General was on the cover of Time. But I do agree that Wayne looks like one of ‘us’. Thanks for reading — and commenting!

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