Annual trip to basketball tourney not the same without daughter

She was four the first year we attended the tournament in Kansas City.

She’s 21 now.

I’ll let you do the math, but suffice to say, my wife and I and our daughter, Emma, have been coming to the MIAA Basketball Tournament in Kansas City for a long time — about as long as the tournament has been held in Kansas City.

Emma isn’t at the tournament this year. She’s in Florence, Italy. Because I am nothing if not a kind and generous parent, I asked Emma a few days ago if she wanted to leave Florence and come to Kansas City for the tournament.

She said “No”.

That’s not as much of a knock against the MIAA Tournament as it is an endorsement of Florence, Italy. I mean, I love Kansas City, but come on, we’re talking Florence, Italy.

On a sort of related/unrelated topic, about a month ago, Emma said she ordered pasta with clam sauce at a cafe in Florence. She said the pasta with clam sauce that I make at home was better.

Did you hear that, Giada?

That first year of the tournament, I spent quite a bit of time with Emma. See, for my wife, the tournament was a work deal, so sometimes she was a tad occupied. For me, the tournament was generally a chance to watch a lot of basketball and drink beer. And when I wasn’t doing that, I was taking care of Emma while my wife worked.

Don’t get me wrong here: As much as I liked watching basketball and drinking beer, I loved taking care of Emma.

That first year of the tournament, Emma fell in love with the downtown hotel where we stayed. Toward the far end of the hotel lobby, there is a winding staircase that leads up to the mezzanine.

Emma loved that hotel and the lobby staircase. She said it was like a castle, which of course meant that Emma and I had to walk up and down that staircase.

Over and over again.

In fact, the next year, when we told Emma we were going back to the tournament, the first thing she asked was if we were going to stay “in that castle.”

Emma and I also spent a great deal of time in the hotel’s indoor pool. When you’re a kid, one of the great perks of staying in a hotel is the hotel pool. In those early years of the tournament, Emma only had a few rules regarding the indoor pool. One of those rules was that when Emma asked me to watch her do something, I was expected to watch her do something.

Over and over again.

The other rule was that when she wanted to climb onto my shoulders and jump off of them into the water, I had to let her do so.

Over and over again.

The last rule was that when I said it was time to get out of the pool and she said, “Can’t we stay a little longer?” we had to stay a little longer.

When Emma was younger, she also used to wear a Missouri Southern State College cheerleader outfit. It rained and snowed that first year of the tournament, and by the second day in Kansas City, Emma had run out of white tights that were covered in mud. But she didn’t care.

As long as she got to walk on the castle staircase and swim in the indoor pool.

Over and over again.

It’s actually been a few years since Emma attended the MIAA Tournament. I’m certain she missed the tournament during her senior year of high school, and of course, she missed the tournament during her first two years of college.

So I’m sort of used to her not being here with us at the tournament.

But I don’t know. I guess I wouldn’t mind walking up and down the castle staircase with her just one more time.

Or over and over again.