"Daddy, who's gonna sing 'Good Night' to me while you're gone," asked our then tearful 6-year-old MT, nicknamed for our now 37-year-old daughter, Maria-Therese, in late December 1990, right after Christmas.
I was starting to get ready to take my then annual silent retreat to Manresa in Convent, LA with Group #7—right around Valentine's Day, so I had to quickly think of how to console our first born who was experiencing early "separation anxiety."
Christmas had been so fun with family as my parents lived right down on the corner from us, and my mother-in-law, "Maw Maw," lived in our shotgun apartment next door.
Being our first born, my wife and I had dedicated so much attention to her and her education and overall growth.
How can I forget the bike rides that I would take with MT per the attached kid seat to Audubon Park for the kids games and feeding the ducks since we lived Uptown on Broadway near South Claiborne.
And Maria, my wife, used to love to take MT to many cool programs for mothers like the "I to I" (Infancy to Independence) program at Children's Hospital on Henry Clay Avenue, where she met other great moms like Joan Barasovska, a renowned poet.
MT had many friends she'd gotten to know at Most Holy Name of Jesus Elementary School where she attended, so we had many gatherings with them for sleep-overs and birthday parties.
Back to my encounter with MT as she was going to bed, I then realized that I could make a cassette tape (no CDs, iPods, etc back then!) recording for our girl named after "The Little Flower," St. Therese of Lisieux.
So as time went on and it got closer to my retreat, I told MT that like "Dennis"—who sang her favorite kids sing-a-longs and whom she had a cassette of his greatest tunes—I could record the "Good Night, Sleep Tight" song from the Beatles' White Album (the plain white sleeve has no graphics or text other than the band's name embossed) that I would usually sing to her every night after evening prayers.
Next day, a Wednesday—the day before the Thursday evening to Sunday Manresa Retreat—I took the time to secretly take out my Epiphone guitar outside and took my boom box and recorded that beautiful "Good Night" song, sung by Ringo on that double album.
While it took a couple of times to finally get a decent recording, I finally was able to make a neat recorded song with some special messages and prayers for my dear daughter and wife!
So that night, after prayers and singing to MT, I gave her my special cassette and player so she could still get them with Daddy's voice the next day while I was on retreat with the Jesuits by the Mississippi River. Also, before I left for work the next day, I hid a little special note under the pillows for both Maria and MT wishing them love while I was going to be away.
When I got back home from the retreat, I gave a big hug to MT after giving Maria a kiss and a belated Valentine's rose!
The first thing MT told me was, "Thanks for the cassette, Daddy; that was one of the best late Christmas gifts I ever got, but I like live Daddy the best!"