It never occurred to me that there could be an expiration date on our 18-year-long tradition until last Sunday night when, after seeing "The Book Of Mormon," we waved goodbye and, for the first time, returned to separate homes.
My father and I have been taking yearly trips into the city together since I was 5-years-old. The first year, we went to Central Park to eat at an ice cream shop called Rumpelmayer's. Rumpelmayer's was closed, presumably because it was January, which led to a trip to the deli and my first lost tooth. In subsequent years, we stuck to shows and a restaurant called the "Artists café" which, as a child, I claimed had the best soup ever.
We spoke on the phone last night, trying to remember all the different shows we had seen. There were the musicals: "Beauty and the Beast," "Grease," "Rent" (x2), "Phantom of the Opera," "Ragtime," "Wicked," "Urinetown," "Kiss Me Kate" and more than a handful of others that we couldn't remember. There also were the non-musicals: "Proof" and "The Coast of Utopia" as well as two missed years -- the semester I studied abroad in Europe and the year we just couldn't find the time.
The tradition takes place theoretically in honor of my January birthday, which in college, coincided nicely with my winter break. Judging by our decision to see a play in March this year, it now seems to matter less when this tradition takes place than that it took place.
As I recently learned, the tradition started somewhat with my mom's father -- my Papa. As a father who indubitably got to spend less time with his kids than his stay-at-home wife, he used to dedicate entire days to each of his individual children, taking them shopping in New York City. In my younger years, my dad logged more hours in the workplace than my mom, so he adopted the idea -- taking my older brother to baseball games, and me to shows. My parents soon started working the same amount, but the tradition had already been set, and much to my mom's dismay, she was never allowed to intrude.
I don't know when the tradition ended for my grandfather and my mom -- I assume somewhere in between the shuffle of high school and college, maybe even earlier. As for my brother and my Dad, I can't remember the last time they displayed enthusiasm for any part of organized sports besides the hot dogs, so I assume their tradition ended years ago. Maybe my birthday tradition has continued because I have been more demanding in my need for special attention, although I don't think my Dad minds.
I know there will be a time in the not-so-distant future when the prospect of carving out time for a no-moms-allowed day will seem a bit nonsensical. When I consider the fact that my dad traveled a total of five hours to spend approximately that much time together, I wonder if some would say that time has already passed.
I have eagerly slipped into my new role as my dad's "adult child," a role my parents would joke I have been preparing for since the first year we went to Central Park. Still, I do not feel ready to give up this marker of aging. I hope that as the years continue, and I potentially have a family with kids of my own, I will be able to leave them to have a special day alone with their Dad -- so I can have a special day alone with my own.