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Daddy’s Briefcase
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At age four, the little girl’s knowledge of her father’s work was limited but she knew this: he went on trips; he always took his briefcase on those trips; sometimes he went in their car, other times he went on an airplane; sometimes, but not always, she and her mother went with him.

She had watched him pack his briefcase in readiness for his trips: seen him double check his papers, replenish pens, note paper, and grooming supplies. On his return, there was always the excited anticipation of his opening the briefcase: the packing was about his leaving but the unpacking was about her! Always, there was something just for her on the top of all the things crammed into the briefcase. Sometimes, after unpacking it, her father would let her sort through what remained in the briefcase pockets. That’s how she learned about the fascinating small nut-shaped, good-smelling “freshener”.

“Why,” she wondered aloud, “is it in your briefcase?” It was, her father explained, a little gift from a cherished family friend whom the child loved. He added, “Aunt Marilyn said to keep it in my briefcase because, besides making my briefcase smell nice, it would be a reminder that she loves us.” The child nodded. Following subsequent trips, there were often other little gifts or notes to discover in the briefcase—expressions of love for her father and their family.

Coin-shaped Stone

One afternoon, as her father hurriedly prepared for a trip, the little girl sat on the bed watching. Having already zipped his suitcase shut, he was double checking his briefcase for final closing when the little girl suddenly said, “Wait, Daddy.” Sliding off the bed, she ran outside. Her mother and father exchanged puzzled glances. The little girl returned quickly, clutching a smooth coin-shaped stone in her tiny hand. Offering it to her father, she said tenderly, “To keep in your briefcase, Daddy,” He took the stone, understanding the treasure it symbolized.

“It’s very nice,” he told her. He was pressed for time but he sat down on the bed and, with the child on his lap, reopened his briefcase and put the little stone into it. To the child, this time, and ever after, his briefcase packing, as well as the unpacking, would be about her!

Many years later, long after her father and his briefcase had been retired, the child’s mother went through the briefcase for the last time. Among the few items still in it were the nut-shaped freshener and the smooth round stone!

Given his international professional prominence, the father’s extensive travels were well known, prompting someone to ask this of his by then adult daughter, “In retrospect, do you think of your father as ‘an absent father’?” Without hesitation, she replied, “No, I don’t. I never did. He travelled a lot but in so many ways I always felt his presence; I was always certain of my importance to him.”

Undoubtedly, the briefcase rituals contributed to that.

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By Lorraine Beaven. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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