Choosing only the buttons that promised to keep her coat closed, I buttoned them quickly. I twirled her hair into a loose knot and tucked it into her hood as I pulled it over her head then we both ran. A new playground in town warrants a visit, even in the middle of winter, even if temperatures were threatening to freeze.
In hindsight, I wished I had thought to bring gloves and hats. I wished I had been more prepared, but anticipating her excitement often trumps the mental lists I create for myself. It was true when she was born and even more now. I could have turned around, but we were already buttoned up and on the run so we threw caution to the wind.
It was decided. Brave the cold.
We tackled the jungle gyms conquering every obstacle we encountered. We waited our turn on the swings and limited our time to return the favor. We slid down slides and climbed the cargo nets and ran wild through various playground options until our noses turned pink and we started to lose feeling in our fingertips.
Her energy surpassed my own, as it often does, so I opted out after an hour. I tagged along the sidelines while she made friends with other kids she just met. I pulled my collar up closer to my ears as I watched her laugh at jokes I couldn’t hear and I shoved my hands in my coat pockets trying to hold onto this moment as long as possible.
“Brave the cold,” I told myself.
She knew the park existed, but she didn’t know we were visiting. She asked several times and it was never convenient with our schedule so I took an afternoon off work and made it a priority. Her eyes grew larger as we pulled into the parking lot, a secret worth keeping if only to see the surprise on her face.
Requests this easy to grant will slowly become the exception instead of the norm until suddenly, sadly, they will stop all together. As her age continues collecting the years, joy this easy to provide will soon become more challenging. They warned me how fast they grow up, to soak in every moment, to savor every fleeting detail.
They warned me to brave the cold.
Her hood fell off as she ran, her brown curls straightened behind her, the wind carried her giggles throughout the park and I saw how much she’s grown yet how small she still is. I saw happy on her face and it looked good there. It fits her well, always has. Joy this easy to provide will soon become more challenging, but it could grow with her.
Time passed, as it does, and we started making our way back through the parking lot with small talk laced between our steps. She kicked a stone in her path and slid her larger yet still tiny hand into mine; I squeezed and she did the same. “Thanks, Daddy” she said. Sometimes we have to brave the cold to appreciate the warmth.