I returned a coat to Old Navy today.
I had purchased it online during a crazy, after-Christmas, winter clearance blitz. It was a double breasted pea coat; a charming navy blue that spoke of yachts and maritime rendevous!
When it arrived, I expected it to fit as a woman's pea coat should. Tailored, feminine, and slightly sexy. Instead, I was greeted with boxy, uninteresting, lacking-in-style winter wear. Oye! I knew I was in trouble the moment I tried it on. Thanks to my combination of scrawny shoulders and matchstick legs, the "sexy sailor" pea coat resembled a gentleman's blazer on me. I looked like a little girl playing dress up in her daddy's Sunday-best suit coat!
I knew the darn thing had to go back.
So there I was, standing in the Old Navy checkout line. Patiently waiting for the nice employee to "crack the code" on how to return an online purchase in store. While I stood there staring at her register's computer screen--and wondering why in the world they would post a "conversation starters" help sheet on that computer screen, for all the customers to see--a young girl and her dad got in line behind me.
She was probably about fourteen-years-old, with killer, youthful skin and knock-'em-dead eyelashes. Her dad--middle aged and balding--was obviously sweet; he had followed her around the store while she perused sweaters and yoga pants. He seemed attentive and kind.
It was odd how a thought struck me, there in that checkout line with the bumbling cashier mulling over my complicated transaction. I knew that dad loved his daughter. I just knew it. I could see it. It was in the lines of his face and in the warmth of his eyes.
I exited the store and zipped up my coat as I walked across the cold parking lot. I thought about my own brilliant and witty and wonderful dad. How we watched the stars on clear summer nights, and went on "daddy daughter dates" for ice cream or milkshakes. Invaluably, I learned at a young and impressionable age what a "good man" is. What a good father should be.
I suppose I saw a bit of myself in that young girl, and a bit of my dad in hers. I only hope that years from now, when she is grown and on her own and away from her dad and returning an ugly, boxy pea coat while her husband and kids wait in the car, she realizes what I realized. And comes to know what I've come to know again and again over the years.
That a good father's love can never be exchanged.