It was not just a wine bottle stopper. It ended up being a way for me to bond with my daughter in a way that I never had before.
First things first: this isn’t a story about me sitting around and drinking wine with my daughter. She’s four years old. And this isn’t any wine stopper. It’s a banana. Not a real banana, mind you – let me go back to the beginning.
The Banana Comes Home
My wife had gotten a new job and one of the requirements was that she travel – sometimes for a week at a time. As her first trip approached, I was nervous. How would our daughter react to not having mom there for several days? She and my wife have a cute little cuddle/story routine they do every night before bedtime. Would having just dad around be ok?
I told my wife about my concerns over the phone as I picked up groceries the afternoon before she left.
“You’re being silly,” she told me. “Her favorite story is The Princess in Black. Read it, sing the cuddle song, and wiggle her nose three times at the end of it. That’s all. She’ll fall right to sleep and you’ll both be fine.”
“I hope so,” I said. “It’s her first night without you, you know. I’ve traveled; she’s used to that, but…”
“You’ll be fine,” my wife said. “Hey, can you pick up a wine stopper? We must have accidentally thrown our old one away; I can’t find it anywhere. I’ve got to finish packing. Love you! Bye!”
I wandered the aisles, looking for a wine stopper. The only one they had was a silly one shaped like a half-peeled banana. I smiled and shrugged and threw it into the cart, thinking my wife may get a kick out of it.
Fast-forward through my wife’s departure: the kisses, hugs, and double- and triple-checking of everything, and her scurrying out the door to catch her Uber to the airport. After dinner and bath time, I settled my daughter in for her story and cuddle song. She smiled, snuggled her cute little into her pillow, and fell asleep.
Phew! A wave of relief swept over me.
That relief lasted until exactly two-thirty in the morning when my daughter suddenly screamed. I bolted into her room to find her upright in bed, shaking and crying. I hugged her close, feeling her head to see if she felt warm, checking to make sure she wasn’t hurt.
“What’s wrong, honey? What happened? Did you have a bad dream?”
“I dreamed that a monster lived in our front yard and it ate Mommy when she tried to come home and we would never see her again!” my daughter wailed, clutching her tiny hands around my neck. “I want Mommy!”
I carried her into the living room, turned on the lamp, and rocked her. She was inconsolable. My wife had gotten in late and had a huge meeting first thing in the morning. I didn’t want to wake her. I frantically ran through ways to distract my little girl and make her laugh. Suddenly, I thought of the wine stopper.
I carried her into the kitchen and grabbed the stopper out of the drawer, before moving back to the living room couch.
“Hey, Hana. You know what I’ve got?” She continued to cry. “A baby banana.”
Her cries faltered for a minute as she lifted her head to look. “A what?”
“A baby banana. See? You want to hold it?”
She picked it up and smiled. “I’ve never seen a tiny banana like this! It’s not one I can eat! I like it!”
Off the cuff, I started making up a story about Bobby the Baby Banana and how he came to live at our house. It was a silly story – as silly as the wine stopper itself – but my daughter smiled and laughed and played with the tiny banana as her eyelids got heavier and heavier.
My wife walked back through the door as I was getting my daughter in bed one week later.
“Hi honeys!” she said as she hugged us both. “Is it story time?”
“Yeah, Mommy!” My daughter bounced on her bed. “Daddy tells me a banana story every night about Bobby and it’s so much fun! He makes me laugh and laugh!” She waved the tiny banana around.
I smiled at my wife. “The bad news is, I still have to buy you a wine stopper. We’re so glad you’re home!”
It was so much more than a wine stopper. That silly little banana ended up creating a daddy-daughter story tradition that lasted for years. We don’t have the stopper anymore – it’s long since been lost – but we’ll always treasure the memories.