My father drove a hatchback Nissan Z, a two-seater, for nearly a decade. From the beginning, there were too many of us—him, my sister, and me—then there was one more, my half-brother. Our weekends were too booked with extracurricular activities to accommodate the typical divorced-dad visits, so he picked all of us up on Wednesdays. I remember folding my limbs just so in the hatch of the car, the sun warm on my face.
We’d pull up to whatever chain restaurant one of us craved that week and have the closest we could get to a culinary experience in that suburb at that time. I’d usually sit next to my dad, very close, and try to get some of his smell to work into my sweater. Leather, motor oil, and cocoa butter. We’d spread our homework out on the table and stay in the restaurant until it was time for our movie to start. Name a G-rated, PG-13, or even a less racy R-rated movie released between 1995 and 2003 and odds are I saw it with my father.
These were my first dates. Never delayed, rarely canceled. My father showed up for them no matter what else might not be going great in his life. He valued our decisions and never questioned our taste, even if it meant seeing the same coming-of-age movie two Wednesdays in a row. Most of all, he made us feel worthy of his time and attention during those delicate years when who pays attention to you and how matters so much.
Now, when my calendar is crammed and it seems impossible to spend time with the people I love, I remember these Wednesdays. I can always make time for dinner and a movie.
Angela Flournoy is the author of the novel The Turner House, which was a finalist for the National Book Award.