I pulled into the driveway and opened the door to our one stall garage: a round, metal garbage can with six foot tall wooden dowels sticking out of it, cans of spray paint, a few rolls of duct tape. I tilted my head to the side, closed one eye, then nodded. Seemed about right.
By the time I woke up the following morning, the black and red nose of the Hogwarts Express was sitting in our kitchen.
Every year he does this. It’s almost like the build of anticipation to Christmas morning. A Halloween costume idea sparks then simmers around for a few weeks. The day before there’s nothing but a hodgepodge of random hardware store items in our garage. The next morning we all wake to the smell of spray paint and the creative product of a devoted dad. I just shake my head, smile, and say, “I don’t know how you do it.”
The night before I was sitting on my living room floor stitching the torn elastic of a store-bought Batman mask and cursing at a super glue bottle. Somehow I’d managed to glue my sleeve to my hand…and some paper to my fingers…and my fingers to my fingers. But Luna Lovegood just isn’t Luna Lovegood without her Spectrespects and a Quibbler Magazine. So I cut and glued and ooops’d and oh-welled and tried to remember not to touch my hair with glue-fingers. Arts and crafts are not my thing.
But it’s why we make a good team. Dan is sporadic, and I am planned. Change is an adventure to him and always makes me hesitate. He is creative and a builder, and I am a dreamer and a re-arranger. I superglue my sleeve to my hand and he recreates the Hogwarts Express from a literal garbage can overnight. And if I’m honest, I’m a tad jealous of his ability to tape a perfectly straight line without having to rip and redo a few dozen times.
I’m also in awe of the way he loves his little girl. Every year we run out of time to transform Natalie’s wheels into part of her costume. And every year he somehow finds extra time – usually into the late hours of the night. Sometimes into the early hours of the morning. This year was no exception. He worked an almost 14hour day then came home and stayed up until 2am measuring and sawing and painting and taping perfectly straight lines.
A racecar, a storm-spotting news van, a replica of a local cupcakery food truck, and this year the Hogwarts Express taking Luna Lovegood to her friends. Labors of love from a good man who knows each of his kids and meets them in their own unique spot. Rough housing and wrestling with Andrew, including Isaiah on projects and offering kind words, creating and imagining with Natalie.
We don’t often get this parenting thing right. We make a mess, fumble through it, muddle around, apologize for yelling and being grumpy before coffee and after bedtime, lose our patience, forget important things. But then there are times when we get to revel in the moments. When the labor and toiling culminate in tiny feet clambering toward the door with yells of “daddy’s home!” or a six-year-old who grabs his toolbox, pulls out his screw driver, and changes the batteries in a toy, or a girl who wakes up with excitement because today she isn’t in a wheelchair; today she’s riding the Hogwart’s Express.