"Princess Daddy" a Story by Richard Peabody
Celebrate the beloved publishing legend, Richard Peabody, and his collected best-of, "The Richard Peabody Reader," by enjoying this story from its "Home and Family" section
I am Princess Daddy complete with tiara and I’m en route to the Princess Planet with Twyla, my 3-year-old whirlwind of a daughter. She has constructed a spaceship out of wooden blocks to transport us. She’s wearing her purple tutu. "Where your tutu daddy?" Good question. One my wife wishes to remedy at the very next thrift sale. My Redskins T-shirt does clash a little with my silver tiara. I wonder just how the guys in section 114 will relate to me if I show up at FedEx dressed like this. Hogette in training?
"No, no, no," Twyla says. I’m on the wrong side of the airlock, the wrong side of the wall of blocks. I scuttle across the rug. I sigh loudly. I had a tomboy in training for about two years but no longer. Soccer and uppy ball (basketball) looked like locks. Now Twyla is a girly-girl more interested in her hair ties than playing outdoors.
The first time I ever took Twyla into a bookstore she waddled to a display and brought me back a book on Glitter Nails. She was 1! I knew I was doomed right then but lived in denial—the past three years a complete and total blur. Twyla hasn’t actually done my nails yet, though she occasionally does my hair. I forgot once and met a postal worker at the door with pigtails and shiny plastic clips in my hair. Hope he has daughters. And it occurs to me for the first time that if he has sons he won’t get it at all. Having daughters has changed me for sure. Still, I want Twyla to be happy so I cut her a bit of slack. I also want her to let me answer my e-mail in peace without commanding me to be her slave.
Twyla assures me that once we land on the Princess Planet we will find lots and lots of Barbies. So that’s where they come from? Every time I walk that pink aisle at Toys R Us I have indeed left the cosmos. Watch a covey of 3-year-old girls approach that aisle and learn what reverence is all about.
"Where my mer mer aid?" Ariel is naked under a black washcloth on the bottom of the tub upstairs. I know this because we left her sleeping underwater last night. Twyla’s fingers are too tiny to manipulate the Disney clothing so it falls to me to dress the miniature doll for space travel.
Luckily a 3-year-old is still sometimes distracted, tricked, or manipulated by tired daddys who just want their kids to nap. Cuz nothing looks better right this second than an afternoon nap. Not vodka, coffee, or the promise of a hot night in Vegas.
Twyla is wearing her silver and purple mules. She’s clopping them all over the hardwood floors like Shirley Temple with a bad case of Scarlett O’Hara fever. No boys are allowed on the Princess Planet. "I’m a boy," I tell her. "No, you a Princess Daddy." And Twyla explains: "Mommies, babies and sisters are peoples. Boys, mens and brothers not peoples." "But daddys are boys," I explain. "No they not," Twyla laughs. "Daddys mans, no people."
I’m so confused my head is rotating. And then I get it--the trick to space travel for males is to be a Princess Daddy. A Princess Daddy is people. "What are you?" I ask. Twyla laughs. "My a girl, my a people."
I try to imagine my real man father visiting the Princess Planet. Impossible. I try to imagine one of my buddies visiting the Princess Planet with their daughters. Still doubtful, but more doable somehow. Would Laura Ingalls Wilder’s dad have made this trip?
I am Princess Daddy en route to the Princess Planet and I don’t care who knows it. Eat your heart out Captain Kirk.
A romantic poet, a keen writer of farce, a master of satire, a political activist, a pop-culture explorer — Richard Peabody is all these and more, as is evident in this compendium taken from four decades of writing by an American literary hero. Peabody’s literary influences, including strands of Punk, Beat, Alt, experimental, feminist, and political protest, blend with the purely lyrical to create a body of work that is both profound and pleasing. Whether addressing fatherhood, unjust wars, unrequited love, or suburban malaise, Peabody delivers, with both freshness and gravitas, important information about life as we live it now. An introduction by Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Michael Dirda puts Peabody in his rightful place as a great and influential man of letters. The Richard Peabody Reader is an essential collection, an important document of an American literary life. Welcome to the world according to Peabody!