A Father-Daughter Vacation: 20 years in the Making

The bond between a father and his daughter is often unique and full of inside jokes, football terms, and lessons learned over the years. But the magic of that bond, whether biological or not, that magic is never replaceable.

When my parents told my 10 year old ears that we were moving from the comfort and familiarity of Franklin, Tennessee to the unknown bearings of Florida I quite literally teamed with my band of friends and threatened to chain myself to our front oak tree. “This will be our next adventure,” my dad promised, and 1,2,3, off we went from Tennessee.

Upon arriving in the swamp land, I all but lived in our backyard pool, my face and arms slathered in sunscreen, 80SPF of course, layered on by dad every hour. Life was good.

5th grade was starting and I knew no one. A new class, a new school, a new town, a new state, but in I went, smelling of sunblock and cucumber-melon body splash, with that Lisa Frank binder ready to be filled with notes.

“Alright class,” said Ms. Bennett. “We are going to create a travel brochure! You can pick a state, any state, and you have to create a brochure to encourage excitement about traveling there”.

S for Sarah. Darn, I’d be close to last. “Don’t take Tennessee, don’t take Tennessee. Marcus took Tennessee! He’s never even been there! What a worm!”

Uh oh, my turn. “Uh, um…”, looking frantically at the giant color coordinated map of the Unites States, eyes searching from left to right, “uh…Washington?”.  Washington.

That week, with my first ever AOL screenname, I began to search the wonders of the World Wide Web and to my creative pre-teen mind, I didn’t find many exuberant activities that matched up to Disney World or Florida beaches. Washington was the complete opposite side of America. Why didn’t I choose Hawaii?!

My search continued, dad helping me navigate the way. One event that stood out, that reminded me of a familiar festival back home in Tennessee, was the annual Berry Dairy Days event. A three day event filled with music and berry/dairy snacks, something that seemed a bit unusual (were the berry and dairy industries that much of a big deal in Washington?!) but perfect to put in between the Space Needle and Mount Rainier National Park in my school project.

I proudly completed my Washington travel brochure, turned it in and was excited to report to dad that I got a 100%! With our similarly quirky sense of humor, I joked with my dad, Byron, that when I was 30 I’d take him to the well-known Berry Dairy Days festival. As a 10 year old, 30 seemed worlds away, but alas, time does fly by far too quickly.

Over the years, as I grew through teenage years, through tear filled eyes as I drove away for college, through a first career and first home, my dad, my superman, has always been there. He has always told me, through scraped knees, break-ups or setbacks, “Hey kid …you’ll be alright”. And here I am, having just entered my 30th year as a daughter, and yeah, I’m alright.

This June we will be traveling from the tip of Florida to the great state of Washington as I keep a promise I made to my dad when I was 10. We WILL be attending the Berry Dairy Days festival! And wouldn’t you know that this year, the Berry Dairy Days festival, a trip that has been planned for 20 years, happens to fall on Father’s day weekend. Some coincidences are too good to go unappreciated. Kismet... it’s real.

To all 10 year old daughters: I know the amount of importance a father can have in your life, your surroundings, and sometimes your patience. I know that a father won’t understand why you want to play with lip-gloss or get your ears pierced or pluck your eyebrows. I know that even when you think he is trying to help with your homework he can seem like he is hovering. I know that, even though it feels like he is messing up weekend plans with friends, that he is trying his best to pave a bright future for you. And I know, believe me I know, that when you have a father that cares about a daughter, that nothing on planet earth can replace that bond.  Washington, look out! Here we come!

-Sarah K. Cleeland, daughter

Sarah and her father will be walking in the Berry Dairy Days parade this year. Say hello to them on June 16th at 11am on Fairhaven Ave for the grand parade!

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