Father's Day: I choose to use this as the reason, or excuse, to recall and share one of my favorite moments of being a father, a memory I hold tight. I always will.
It was a beautiful Spring day, a dozen years ago. After a family breakfast and a few chores, Hannah and I decided to hop on our bikes for a neighborhood tour. My daughter was around seven at the time, and I remember her resplendent in neon green Spandex bike shorts, pink top, turquoise helmet and matching Santa's-Christmas-present-two-wheeler. I was probably not quite so fetching on my 1960's vintage bike and cut-off shorts.
This was one of our regular weekend routes that ended at our favorite frozen yogurt place after a bit of heavy peddling, not wanting to get too thin from all that exercise. Our last leg of the trip, walking our bikes with our desserts in hand, brought us by a small lake.
I remember that Hannah saw them before I did and, like the magnets that used to hold her artwork securely to the refrigerator, she was pulled to the water's edge. Mother mallard sat proudly in the water, beautiful in her many browns, while around her wiggled and bumped a collection of fuzzy cupcake size young ones. They were the definition of cute.
My daughter has never been the kind of kid to play poker. As the saying goes, "she wears her heart on her sleeve," as well as her anger, enthusiasm, sadness and joy. She was then and remains today fully alive in her emotions, and the fact is that she has not stopped talking since she uttered her first "momma." But at that moment of first contact with the birds on the water, while she was uncharacteristically silent she was also ready to explode with excitement. I watched her kneel quietly at the lake's edge and slowly, slowly reach out her little fingertips, hoping to steal just one brief and gentle touch as the ducklings darted off to the safety of deeper waters.
My daughter and I sat together, counting fast fluffy babies as they swam with great curiosity about their new world. I recall that we two parents, a duck and a dad, sat with our children, each of us probably thinking our own parental thoughts, watchful of each other and the scene.
Moving on land to keep abreast of the swimming brood, I remember Hannah wandering up and down the bank, frequently stopping to look back at me; this was a time when she was young enough to need that constant connection to feel safe. I clearly remember her smiling, a smile that lit my heart. I remember other bike-riders, joggers and strollers stopping and staring, first at this delighted child and then at the source of her delight. A community of adults formed, shifted and moved on with this image of a young human thrilled in the company of young animals.
I don't recall how long I watched her watch the ducklings, but I do remember Hannah happily returning to where I'd been sitting on the grass near the water. I remember her folding her body into mine and sitting with my arms around her, watching the water and the birds, together. I imagine that I must have kissed the top of her head, that I must have whispered to her. I remember her saying "I love you, too." I remember that it was a beautiful Spring day.