Father's Day Cards
Summary: It's hard in first grade when everyone else is making Father's Day Cards. Little Richard Rodgers story.
Disclaimer: The brilliance all belongs to Andrew and Terri. I'm just a worshipper.
Author's Note: It may seem like Rick is really naive, but as someone who went through a similar realization, I assure you, that it's really hard to see that your family might not be "normal" until society points it out. Part of the Father's Day series.
"Good morning, class!"
"Good morning, Ms. Clara."
Little Richard Rodgers' voice melded in with the familiar morning greeting of his peers. Rick was excited though. It was the last week of 1st grade and he couldn't wait for the summer to start. Summer meant touring with his mother, presents from the other actors, and no more baby sitter food. Summer meant big lights and funny stories and none of the misery of Davidson Elementary. Rick didn't fit in here. Martha booked a cabaret in Las Vegas, but since he obviously wasn't allowed to stay in Sin City, they were renting a room in a small motel in the middle of nowhere Nevada. It wasn't either of their first choices, but they were making it work. Making it work didn't mean Rick was happy though.
The middle of nowhere Nevada was a new level of hell for a creative, hyperactive city boy. The town had nothing to do after school, and none of the other kids wanted to play with him anyway. They thought he was odd with his crazy ideas and semi-extravagant clothes. He begged his mom to let him come into the city with her at night, but she always refused since was usually out until early the next morning. The only fun times Rick ever had were on his mom's nights off when they would make boxes of mac and cheese, play poker with m&ms, and watch Turner Classic Movies. He didn't always understand the story, but he loved miming the actors with his mother and pretending he was leading their imaginary lives. Martha told him once that he had a knack for story telling, but he wasn't sure.
Right now he just wanted to put on a happy face and make it through the week.
"Can anyone tell me what this Sunday is?" Ms. Clara asked. Tiny hands shot up around the room, but Rick's stayed down. For once, he didn't know the answer to her question.
"Yes, Anna Marie." Ms. Clara called. Rick rolled his eyes. He hated her.
"It's Father's Day, Ms. Clara." She said smugly.
"Very good, dear." Ms. Clara said.
Rick was very confused. He'd never heard of Father's Day. He supposed it made sense if there was a Mother's Day, though. He'd never celebrated Father's Day before. Come to think of it, he'd never had a father, had he? There were always lots of men around his mother and in his life, but none of them were his father…he didn't think. He wasn't sure. He'd have to ask his mom when he got back to the motel. Oh, Ms. Clara was talking again…
"We all have big celebrations coming up this weekend, so we're going to make something nice for our dads. Does that sound fun?"
Enthusiastic 'yesses' rang out at the prospect of an art projet.
"Alright," Ms. Clara began again, "I want everyone to form a line to pick up your art supplies. We have markers, glue, construction paper, and cards…"
She'd barely finished her sentence before a stampede of little feet roared towards the colorful table; all except for one straggler, of course.
Rick stayed in his seat. He wasn't sure what to do.
"Richard, don't you want to color?" Ms. Clara asked as she bent down next to the conflicted boy.
"I don't know what to do with my card, Ms. Clara." He said.
"Well, as long as it comes from your heart, that's all that matters, dear." She replied, clearly not comprehending his predicament.
"No, I mean," he paused. "Never mind." He sighed. No one ever understood him.
"Richard, is everything okay?" she asked.
"Yeah." He plastered on the fake smile he learned from Martha. "I'm going to get my markers now."
Rick hopped out of his seat before Ms. Clara could ask more questions he couldn't answer.
By the time Rick got to the supply table, most of the 'best' items were gone, but he didn't mind. For him, it was more about the idea than which colors told the story. Besides, he'd decided to make the card for his mom, so it was fine that most of the 'girly' colors were still there. Rick grabbed a bright yellow piece of construction paper and a purple and a pink marker and went back to his seat. Martha's favorite shirt was yellow with purple and pink flowers, so he thought he'd decorate his card the same way. He smiled. It always worked better when he made his own assignments.
After a few minutes, Rick felt an extra set of eyes on his paper.
"Can you leave me alone, please?" Rick asked.
"What are you doing?" Anna Marie ignored him.
"I'm making my card. Now go away please." He replied.
"Your card is dumb. Dads don't like flowers." She snarked.
"It's for my mom." He insisted.
"Haha! You did it wrong!" she laughed. "It's Father's Day, not Mother's Day. Is your daddy a girl?" she teased. Rick tightened his grip on his marker, but didn't respond.
"Hey look!" Anna Marie shouted. "Ricky's daddy is a GIRL! HAHAHAHA!" The class laughed and laughed and Rick fought hard to keep tears from welling up in his eyes.
"Stop it." He whispered.
"Ricky is a free-eak! Ricky is a free-eak!" she chanted.
"No." he whimpered.
"Anna Marie, you stop that right now!" Ms. Clara scolded. Anna Marie, shocked at being told off, turned and went back to her friends, but not before knocking Rick's card onto the floor.
Ms. Clara was trying to ask him something, but Rick didn't care. He watched his paper fall to the floor with sad eyes and couldn't bring himself to look back up again. His mom always told him that teasing was what people did if they were jealous of you, but that couldn't possibly be true this time. Who would be jealous of not having a normal family? He just wanted to go home.
"Rick." Ms. Clara finally got through to him with a small grasp on his arm. He looked up at her, his little lip trembling. "Oh, sweetie, it's okay. You don't have to make a card if you don't want. You can grab a coloring book instead." She was trying to be nice, but Rick was infuriated. He just wanted to be normal. Making him do something different was only going to make people laugh at him more, why couldn't people understand?
"NO." He shouted. He bent down and grabbed his picture and markers, and went to sit by himself. The yellow construction paper was marred with dirt from the floor and he'd smudged some of the flowers, but it was okay. He had to finish. Giving up was the worst sin, according to Martha, and Rick firmly believed that.
When school was over, Rick waited until all the other kids left on the bus before shuffling out to sit on the steps and wait for his mom. He used to hate the extra time he had to wait, but now he was eternally grateful that he didn't have to get on the bus with everyone else.
Martha pulled up a few minutes ahead of schedule, for once, and jumped out of the car. As busy as her job kept her, she loved her son beyond anything in the world, and seeing him was the best part of her day. Her smile faded, though, as she walked up to the steps. Her usually bouncing boy was curled up with his knees against his chin, fidgeting with a rumpled piece of yellow paper.
"Richard, darling, what's wrong?" Martha hurried to her son's side. Her heart broke when she realized he was sniffling. She knew he wasn't happy here, but he'd never cried about it in front of her before. "Oh sweetheart, it's going to be okay." She whispered as she gathered him up in her arms. They sat there in silence, wrapped in each other until he could speak.
"I made this for you." He held up the crinkled paper, now tearstained and greasy from his little fingers. Martha gently soothed her fingers over the back of his head as she took the paper. She unfolded it and smiled. In the middle of a bunch of pink and purple flowers, it said in big block letters: "I love you mommy. Happy Mother's Day 2.".
"Thank you, Richard, it's beautiful." She whispered sincerely.
"You don't think it's dumb?" He asked with the least amount of confidence she'd ever heard from him.
"Richard Alexander Rodgers, whatever gave you that idea?" She asked, genuinely shocked.
"Everyone laughed at me." He spoke softly. "They said I was a freak because I didn't make a card for my dad."
Martha pulled him closer and gave him a tight squeeze.
"Why did they laugh at me?" He asked. Martha gave up on trying not to tear at his innocent, but completely honest question.
"Oh darling, I wish I knew." She said. "Sometimes people are mean for reasons we don't understand." She pulled back and turned his face towards hers. "Look at me, Richard. You are not a freak. You are a beautiful, intelligent, creative, amazing boy, kiddo, and nothing anyone says is ever going to change that."
"But they're right aren't they." He more said than asked. "Kids are supposed to have a mom and a dad…" Martha sighed.
"Let me tell you a secret, kid. Hardly anything that's supposed to happen actually ends up happening. It's true. Your family is a little different from others', but that doesn't make it wrong."
Rick gave her a confused and frustrated look.
"True or false? In a good family, kids and parents love each other." Martha asked.
"True." Rick sniffled.
"True or false? You and I love each other." Rick smiled.
"True." He said.
"So there you have it. It has to be a good family, right?"
Rick thought for a moment and then wrapped his arms around his mother.
"Yeah. It's good." He said. Martha hugged him back with every ounce of love she could pour into her embrace.
"I'm so proud of you, darling." She whispered. After a moment, she pulled back and ruffled his hair so it stood cutely on end again. "You ready to go back for John Wayne?"
Rick's eyes lit up.
"Cowboys tonight?" He asked excitedly.
"Yup! A whole marathon, just for you, kiddo." Martha exclaimed.
Rick stood up and grabbed his mom's hand as she lead him back to the car, her other hand carrying the card. As she buckled him in, he cocked his head in deep thought.
"What are you thinking about?" She asked.
"When I grow up, I want to be a space cowboy." He decided.
Martha smiled and gave him an encouraging pat on the arm. She didn't have the heart to tell him that she was pretty sure there were no cows in space.
So, I actually cried half way through this. Writing more Father's Day one-shots tomorrow. I have a list of five more that are going in the series. So far, the published series is this story, "Look, It's a Writer Monkey", and "My Grass Isn't Greener, It's Blue." Please drop me a line. I love knowing what was good and what I can do better.