My daughter turned 20 today.
So many feelings and memories surround the writing of that sentence.
I had to stop a second because my eyes started sweating a little.
I have many wonderful thoughts of being able to be that larger-than-life presence in her life. I was, and still am, the daddy.
Although my role as protector has evolved as the years have passed, I recall a particular event where I almost had to go full pit bull as her guardian.
My daughter had turned 14 and was developing her own taste in music.
Of course, as parents we went full bore on all the sappy Disnified music and songs from when she was just a wee girl.
But now she had reached teenagerdom, and the cutesy posters in her room were slowly being replaced with celebrity posters and music idols.
With her birthday approaching, my daughter asked for tickets to see the band We The Kings, who were going to be playing at the House of Blues in Orlando.
I agreed to get the tickets but she could not go alone and I would not simply drop her off — not yet. Not at 14. Not my little girl.
So we had a date night. I was going with her. We headed off.
I decided to eat at the House of Blues. It was a nice outing. We had burgers and talked.
She answered my questions about who these guys we were about to see, where they came from, their style of music, were they cute, etc.
My daughter obliged me my silly daddy questions.
She then informed me that the main band would play after four opening acts.
FOUR!?!? I thought. This is gonna be torture.
I had no idea.
Having patronized the House of Blues restaurant, we were given early-entry passes to the show.
We could pile in before the rest of the Kingers or Kingheads, or whatever they called themselves, could gain access to the hallowed halls of Blues.
We walked and there were only enough people standing to fill about three rows.
Uh-oh. No seats.
I had forgotten that this was a general admission event and there would be no seats. My first alarm went off, but I used to go to heavy metal concerts at small and large venues.
“I got this!” I figured.
As the rest of the patrons started to stroll in, I noticed a few things.
First, I was the oldest thing there. I was even older than the building I was in.
Second, everyone looked at me as if I were a narc.
Third, I was crowding in on my daughter’s first musical fan experience. So I quickly surveyed the room and found some steps that led up to a ledge only a few feet off the main floor where there was a bar.
I had no interest in drinking that night (hard to believe but true), only in the small nook with a railing that overlooked the floor.
I didn’t care about the view of the show, I just wanted to find a place where I could see Marina and I had found it.
I leaned over and told Marina where I would be. She nodded, still sporting this wonderful smile and soaking in this new experience.
I trotted up to my perch and stood watch like a medieval sentry through the first two bands.
They were local, unknown bands and they didn’t draw a large reception.
I could still see the curly mop of my happy daughter. And she would look up to my position and flash me a smile and return my thumbs-up each time.
I had forgotten from my concert-going days that true fans and followers pile in as the night gets longer.
And then they came.
By the middle of the third band, I started to see a wave forward and to the side of Marina’s head. The crowd was growing and moving as one large organic being.
My daughter was now in this sea of bodies.
I was starting to sweat.
The fourth band was obviously a favorite as the crowd moved violently in every direction.
I could see Marina still enjoying herself, swaying with the crowd, still pretty much in the same area I had left her when I noticed a new configuration.
A mosh pit was developing!
Oh God, no!!
My little girl was right in the area where the crowd was parting to allow this abomination to take shape.
She was right along the edge of this pit. And I remembered, again from my metal days, what could happen to those unsuspecting individuals around the edge of a pit.
While I scanned, searching for curly hair, I saw him enter the circle: an experienced mosher, all 7-foot-9 of him.
He was a perfect sculpted specimen.
I know because he pulled his shirt off, threw it over his shoulder and proceeded to mosh, throwing arms and fists in every direction.
My eyes were focused on this monstrosity and willing that he not come anywhere near Marina.
I knew in that moment that if this man-child of Greek-proportioned musculature and probably 2 percent body fat came anywhere near my daughter that my 5-foot-10, soft-bodied dad self would fly down in a heartbeat to kill him.
I even saw it played out in my head: Me swooping down and beating this pseudo -Adonis to death with his own leg that I had just ripped off of him.
I didn’t have to though. He stayed at the other outer edge, making contact with more than one bystander. I looked over to the safe edge and scanned for curly hair.
I didn’t see any.
I lost her!
I know I must have displayed that on my face because I felt a hand over my mine, which was death-gripping the metal rail.
I looked up and saw what was definitely a mom.
She looked right at me and said, “Did you lose your daughter in there?”
Holy crap. She knew.
Yes, I nodded vigorously.
She told me to calm down and that she would be OK. I didn’t believe her but I did settle down and refocused.
I scanned closer to the stage and there she was, almost at the stage level with a great view of the show and away from that idiot in the pit.
I breathed again and mouthed “thank you” to that mom.
The last opening act left and the lights came up a bit more as we waited for the main act.
Marina turned around and had an easier time of spotting me. She flashed a wide smile and a thumbs up.
I actually got to watch the main act and enjoyed the show.
After the show ended, I managed to get back to my little girl, who was beaming.
I hugged her, more for my benefit, and then we left.
I asked her how she enjoyed it, and the words came out at teenage speed.
On the trip home, she told me how she took advantage of the mosh pit forming and creating new space to get to a better location to enjoy the upcoming band.
And when the crowd surfers came by, she just ducked a bit to avoid them.
She took a glancing blow from some Keds sneaker but that was it.
She loved her first concert.
She thanked me and said she would never forget it.
Me too. And somehow, I survived it.
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