Read an Excerpt
I was born into a loving family. My family is the kind that embraces you, nurtures you, and loves you immeasurably. For me, the most anticipated event of the year is our reunion at Thanksgiving, a tradition with a thirty-year history. I look forward to the sound of cheerful greetings, the warmth of hugs and firm handshakes, the comfort of kisses and familiar smells, and the retelling of stories of a Thanksgiving past, all of which rush toward me as soon as I set foot inside the front door. This love I have received shapes the love I give, and I hope it is evident at its best in my relationship with my daughter.
I have known from an early age that I wanted to be a father, and particularly the father of a daughter. My heart always melted when I held a baby girl, and I grew envious when
I watched a toddler crawl onto her dad's lap to cuddle. I've been touched by women who spoke fondly of their fathers and moved by the grief of women who have lost their fathers.
The special love shared between a daughter and father was something I very much wanted to experience for myself.
When my wife told me she was pregnant I was overjoyed. Something inside me told me that our child would be a girl. Throughout the pregnancy I referred to the baby as
"she"-never "it"-and when we saw the first sonogram I insisted that it was obviously a girl, even though the doctor said it was too early to tell. I was in the delivery room when she arrived. The first person she looked at was me. I was smitten instantly.
After the delivery an exhausted mother slept while Meagan Katherine and I bonded. She slept on my shoulder, her face nestled under my chin. We spent her first night in the world together, asleep in a big recliner. Today, nearly twelve years later, Meagan still lays her head on my shoulder and turns her face into my neck. I still pull her close and make sure no harm comes to her.
Over the years Meagan and I have shared many special times together. We've had daddydaughter dates, traveled, explored new subjects, and done sweet things for one another now and then. Sometimes we sit on the floor and look through the contents of the "Meagan Box,"
a cardboard box overstuffed with pictures, her artwork, keepsakes, and notes we have written to each other. In that box resides the reassuring evidence of our close relationship. Her mother and I divorced years ago, and Meagan lives with me half of the time. During the weeks that she is with her mother, I go to that box often. For a long time I have wanted to capture those memories and put them together in some form to give to Meagan, to reassure her that when we are not together I think of her and I love her.
I knew from the start that my relationship with Meagan would be a changing one. I knew,
and people told me, that one day she would be a little less affectionate, more interested in friends, and less entertained by me, and that she might even find me embarrassing. It has surely come to pass. Now when I take her to school, she kisses me good-bye, and never on the lips, before we leave the house. I must turn off my music the moment the car enters school territory.
I am to keep both hands on the wheel, my gaze fixed straight ahead. I may wave at other parents, but only if they wave first. If I must say, "I love you," it is to be nearly whispered, and never if the car door is open. Sometimes I go to the Meagan Box to reassure myself.
When I first began this book, my intention was to create a different kind of how-to book,
a book daughters could give to their fathers to tell them what they wanted from them. I sat and thought about what my daughter and I had done together. I thought about what kinds of experiences my father had shared with my sister, and my uncles with my cousins. I asked Meagan for ideas, and I turned to the book of Proverbs for inspiration. Then I wrote it all down. The first time I read what I had written, I saw a list of what a daughter might ask her father to do for her (just as I had planned). The second time I read it, I saw a list of all that I hope to do for my daughter. The third time I read it, I saw myself telling Meagan that she would change but never outgrow me. When I read it the fourth time, I knew I was holding the Meagan Box.
Happy with the text, I set out to find a photographer. I did not know Janet Lankford-Moran when I began this book. I literally picked her at random out of the newspaper where she appeared in an article about a local art college. I sent her my manuscript and asked her to work with me.
We met one afternoon to talk business. During this meeting she told me her personal story.
She was raised by her single father beginning in her early childhood. She shared with me that she could see herself and her father in much of the manuscript. I knew then that we had to complete this book together. I did not have to tell Janet what I wanted the photographs to convey. She knew herself, perhaps even better than I.
With this book Janet and I hope to inspire new as well as experienced fathers to embrace the challenging role they play in their daughters' lives, to give them the love, nurture,
and support they seek, and to cherish that which is reciprocated in kind. With this book I
tell my child how very irreplaceably important she is to me. With this book I comfort and reassure myself that I will always have the pleasure and honor of being in her life. I love you, Meagan Katherine.