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Illustration by Marissa Maciel

If LeVar Burton and Yo-Yo Ma were your dads, you would be able to judge a book by its cover. Literally. You’d never waste your time reading books that would only disappoint you.

If LeVar Burton and Yo-Yo Ma were your dads, when you were a kid, every time you had a question about anything (“How do you spell ‘loquacious’?” “Do sharks sleep with their eyes closed?”), LeVar Burton would tell you to take a look, it’s in a book. And when you complained about how annoying Dad was being, Yo-Yo Ma would play a slow, sad song on the cello, and they’d laugh at you (never unkindly) as you stomped away.

If LeVar Burton and Yo-Yo Ma were your dads, no one would be permitted to “joke” about arts and humanities majors’ dead-end jobs in your presence. No one would even want to.

If LeVar Burton and Yo-Yo Ma were your dads, among your most cherished childhood memories would be the epic yearly camping trips you took together. You would eat hot dogs and s’mores around the campfire while LeVar Burton told the spookiest ghost stories, never the same one twice, and when you couldn’t take it anymore—oh my god WHAT WAS THAT NOISE???—Yo-Yo Ma would bring out his second-best Strad (he doesn’t like to bring “Petunia,” his favorite cello, when you guys are roughing it) and play soothing concertos and Appalachian lullabies until your frayed nerves and racing heart finally calmed down, and various woodland animals (only the cute, friendly ones) would creep out of their dens and burrows to listen, too.

If LeVar Burton and Yo-Yo Ma were your dads, they’d have three scrappy tomcats named Pablo Casals, Mstislav Rostropovich, and James Joyce. Pablo would rule the roost, Mstislav would be the valiant hunter, and James would essentially be a dog in cat form who would come when you called and sleep at the foot of your bed when you visited.

If LeVar Burton and Yo-Yo Ma were your dads, there would be overflowing floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in all the rooms in your house—even the bathrooms—and every time you borrowed a book, LeVar Burton would make you choose another one to donate to the library. As you got older he’d make sure that every time you bought a book from the bookstore you also bought one to give to someone else, and this would be your religion, a practice you would never stop as long as you lived.

If LeVar Burton and Yo-Yo Ma were your dads, you’d have a gorgeous, light-filled, airy study to work in every day, and your desk would always be perfectly neat and organized, and your window seat cushions would be many and soft.

If LeVar Burton and Yo-Yo Ma were your dads, you’d be able to carry on casual conversations in six or seven languages, and when you referred to yourself as “a citizen of the world” somehow it would always sound sincere, never smug.

If LeVar Burton and Yo-Yo Ma were your dads, you’d never experience writer’s block. You’d see amazing ideas everywhere, from that baby with the ducky shoes who tried to eat a chopstick you dropped in a restaurant to the guy dancing all by himself on the subway. You would never lack for inspiration, and you’d always know exactly what other people’s stories needed, too.

If LeVar Burton and Yo-Yo Ma were your dads, they would’ve fully supported you when you insisted you weren’t going into the arts just because they did; you were going to be a doctor: “You’ll be a great doctor! Always good to have one in the family!” They wouldn’t say anything when you came home from frog-dissecting day in biology class with a pale face, vaguely smelling of puke. When you changed your major from pre-business to comp sci to communications to history, they’d tell you that they just wanted you to like what you were studying. And when, two years into your job as a paralegal, you finally quit and called to tell them you’d decided to get your MFA, there would be only the briefest of pauses, and then LeVar Burton would say evenly, “That’s wonderful news, sweetie,” and Yo-Yo Ma would add, “As long as you’re happy,” and you would tell them you loved them, knowing that as soon as you hung up they’d be high-fiving and whooping with delight.

If LeVar Burton and Yo-Yo Ma were your dads, they would come to every performance of every student play you wrote or produced or appeared in. They’d argue over whose turn it was to bring you flowers, and then you’d just end up with two equally beautiful bouquets every night.

If LeVar Burton and Yo-Yo Ma were your dads, you’d have perfect pitch, play four instruments (including one so obscure only two virtuosos are currently alive in the world), and sing so beautifully in the car that other drivers would non-creepily compliment your voice at red lights.

If LeVar Burton and Yo-Yo Ma were your dads, you’d all be friends with all the Obamas. They would leave you birthday voicemails and “love” all your Facebook photos and save you primo seats at the Kennedy Center Honors (even in those years when your dad wasn’t performing). And of course you’d be sure to call them “Mr. President” and “Mrs. Obama” out of respect, but you’d all know that once 2017 rolled around and they were living semi-private lives again and dining at your dads’ house, it’d be “Barack, can I refill your wine glass?” and “Michelle, I told you I’m never playing Trivial Pursuit against you again; I have my pride.”

If LeVar Burton and Yo-Yo Ma were your dads, reading would always be allowed at the dinner table, so long as you were willing to provide a brief summary and explain why you would recommend it to the group.

If LeVar Burton and Yo-Yo Ma were your dads, your orchids would never die, no matter how much you overwatered them.

If LeVar Burton and Yo-Yo Ma were your dads, you would be able to come up with the perfect, funny yet gently crushing response to every unfortunate comment or microaggression uttered in your presence. No one would ever get mad at you for saying it; everyone would just leave the party or classroom or subway car talking about your wit and compassion and how cool you were under pressure, and on your way out strangers would thank you for really making them think.

If LeVar Burton and Yo-Yo Ma were your dads, you would be a travel goddess: no matter how long the trip, no matter what the season, you would be able to fit everything you needed in one small roller bag and one reasonably sized tote. You would never suffer through an unplanned overnight layover in the Atlanta airport, your carefully packed shirts and dresses would never wrinkle, your hair products would never explode mid-flight, and you would always look and feel like yourself no matter how long you’d been on a plane. And on those nights when you found yourself all alone in a strange hotel room in a strange town where no one even knew your name, you’d order comfort food from room service and watch your top three or four favorite episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation on Netflix before falling into a sound, refreshing sleep.

If LeVar Burton and Yo-Yo Ma were your dads, you would know how to take a compliment graciously and also fight like hell for what you deserve—like that raise you’ve had coming! With extra paid leave, too, because if your dads have taught you anything, it’s that family is important.

If LeVar Burton and Yo-Yo Ma were your dads, your favorite moments from childhood, your all-time best days, your greatest personal triumphs would never fade away. All your dearest-held memories would be forever accessible, as bright and vivid as if they had occurred only yesterday.

If LeVar Burton and Yo-Yo Ma were your dads, you’d never accidentally read a spoiler for a book you’d been dying to read. And if anyone happened to be talking about intriguing plot twists in your vicinity, their words would magically fade just before reaching your ears, and all you would be able to hear until they moved on to another topic would be the deep, soulful notes of Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G.

If LeVar Burton and Yo-Yo Ma were your dads, you’d treat each and every person you met with kindness and compassion, recognizing their individual worth and talents and their limitless human potential, because you’d want to, because that’s who you are—and because that’s what your dads would want you to do.

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Nicole Chung is the Managing Editor of The Toast.

Karissa Chen is the author of Of Birds and Lovers, a chapbook of short fiction. She is the fiction & poetry editor at Hyphen magazine, and her work has appeared in Guernica, PEN America, PANK, VIDA, and other publications. She is a currently a Fulbright Scholar in Taiwan and is at work on a novel.

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