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on a tuesday, bella approached me to ask if she and a friend could go to a concert. this would be bella's first concert. before i could speak she pleadingly added she and her friend loved this performer who was a really great girl and the concert was at a venue in our neighborhood so we could walk there meaning she could get home super-fast. the pitch went on a while. i asked the date of the show. next week. on a wednesday. starting at 8pm. i explained that it being a school night, and starting so late, twelve-year old late at least, i feared the answer had to be no. bella's protest proved both short and respectful.

the following monday, alex and i walked into the house after soccer practice. bella passed us by in the doorway. she briskly told me she had a meeting to go to and would be home between eight and ten. i uttered a surprised ok before she headed up the street on her bike. as we sat down to dinner i told marty of bella's meeting and asked if she knew about it. after a moment of thought marty said she thought bella and some classmates were reading a statement to the city council in support of a new biking path under consideration. i mildly recalled bella asking for help in crafting such a speech. i assumed it to be a class assignment and didn't anticipate the end audience to include our town's mayor and councilmen. i asked marty if one of us should be up there to watch. after another moment of thought marty, in a very marty-esque answer said, "yes, if we were good parents, we would be." after i cleared my plate i asked the table to excuse me so i could go up and listen to the talk.

every now and again, life (when we take the time to leave our homes on unexpected adventures) deals us unexpected treats. my town's city hall stands as one of those surprises. rarely do i drive by this inspired building where i don't give it a glance in appreciation of it being part of my landscape. it is an octagonal shaped, five story, hundred year old building that spared nary an expense in its construction or vision. compared to all modern structures, it is simply spectacular, breath-taking even. and for as regal and elegant as its external facade is, its interior makeup is every bit as special, especially its top floor which hosts the city's monthly council meetings. being late, i arrived in the midst of the on-going meeting. i spied bella sitting in a row with a diverse set of six students. seeing me, she gave a surprised wave and thankful smile. i moved to the back of the room and found a seat. i spent more time admiring the precision of the century-plus architecture and craftsmanship than listening to how often the alleys of my community have street-cleaners roll down them.

i perked up when they finally announced the bike path, even if my only interest selfishly listened for my daughter's queue. after some pre-amble and hearing the positions of the various council people they turned the mic to the public and began calling names of people to present. after five or so folks went up, all but one in enthusiastic support of the proposal, bella's spot came up, only they didn't call bella. they called her best friend cecilia. obviously perplexed by this, i wondered if both girls would be presenting. after cecilia read, quite admirably might i add in front of such pomp and order, it became clear she represented the group. when i later asked bella about it, she said that when they had to decide who's name to put down, bella feared she wouldn't be able to stay long enough to do the reading and whoever got called had to read. she added they considered putting down bella's name and having cecilia stand in if bella did have to leave but the officialness of the room, policemen standing guard even, spooked them from trying to fool what appeared to be a reasonably smart set of people. i will confess to being both surprised and pleased at the depth of consideration the girls gave to this seemingly minor detail. but in the end, bella did not read and cecilia did. still, i sat wildly impressed that my daughter sat in the room, helped craft the speech, and had a best friend who, at twelve years of age, could claim 'delivered speech to city council' to her resume of achievements.

after their pitch, my mind returned to its meandering stroll, my thoughts drifting back to the request bella (and cecilia) made a week earlier to go to the concert of a singer they both adored, and my forty seconds of contemplation before striking it down because it had the inconsideration of being scheduled on a school night. i recalled how quietly bella accepted my answer, sans tantrums or angst. now i watched these two girls sitting side by side (fully looking like sisters with thick brown hair hanging nearly to their waists) at a city council meeting representing the students of their community and thought what a short-sighted ass i am to be so dismissive of such an innocuous request, especially to two girls who had accomplished more self-initiated feats at age twelve than i had at thirty-two. now instead of reveling in the architecture or keeping track of the bike path's voting ledger, i admired the two young women who would occasionally whisper in the other's ear and sat tall looking enviably comfortable with themselves and each other. i was left uncertain of what more a father could ask for in a young daughter (or a friend for a young daughter).

after we left as a group and were just about to part ways to head home, i stopped the girls and said that in celebration of this impressive feat of citizenship and speech writing and public speaking i would be taking them to the concert they asked about. the girl's looked at each other, back to me, then back at each other and squealed and jumped and spun and hugged in that girlish way that never seems to change from generation to generation.

the next morning when i went to the web site to buy the tickets, the browser dealt me an all-caps, red-lettered notice SOLD OUT. suck. obviously the first memory my mind pulled to the front replayed the two girls dancing and shrieking in the lawn of city hall. it next played the anticipated response i'd see where they'd say, "it's ok dad. we understand. the important thing is you wanted to take us.". i pulled up an email and wrote a message to bella that ended with the words 'i'm so sorry bella". as i re-read the message and just before hitting send, a hopping, chirping neuron got my notice. it reminded me of that internet jewel which bailed me out of a birthday present jam i found myself in with marty last year. after a few minutes effort and thanks to that attentive neuron, i was able to dash the 'i'm so sorry bella' email against the rocks and instead craft the following:
when i went to buy tickets today it showed as SOLD OUT. i'm so sorry bella.

but then ...

being the complete butt-cutting stud of a father i am, i immediately set out to find three black-market tickets for us

and did ...

so tell cecilia to get a good night's sleep tonight because we're going to be out late tomorrow night.

love ya.

and then the joy of her later reply:
OMG OMG OMG, I was reading the email and saw SOLD OUT and my heart sank, but than I saw the words 'but then...' and i knew that my amazing father, the most phenomenal, stupendous, amazing, mind-boggeling... more upon request father of mine is a man to his word and found a way to sneak us in. 

Your the absolute best! If you quote me on this I'll deny it

Bella C;D
so we went, them both dressed in fancy, shoulder exposing shiny shirts and me carrying my three musketeers book. they found a standing spot with a great view of the stage and i found a standing spot in a corner under a canned light with a great view of my printed page (and if i looked up, a great view of their smiling, glowing, singing faces). i can't remember seeing two young people more genuinely engaged in a moment. a moment i imagine they, and surely i, will remember forever. i reckon we don't experience too many wednesday nights in our lives that can make that claim.





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