MUDDY BOOTSJune 17, 2015
The wind played games with her curls as we collected the miles under our tires and counted the streetlights we passed by. We turned up the radio and sang at the top of our lungs until we reached the spot we unintentionally drove towards, a random field by the side of the road full of yellow flowers.
“It’s a little muddy,” she said. An observation made by the sweet voice from the back seat that seems to be growing in volume as she is in height, one of many races forced upon us by age.
The mud gave way as I climbed onto it and immediately I was glad we came prepared. We slid our feet out of the shoes we wore and exchanged them for the boots we thought to bring at the last minute. We let the mud hug our soles as we walked through the flowers. We talked about her birthday pausing to discuss memories of the last four years as they surfaced, remembering our first days together, our first minutes together.
I remembered her cries fading to a whimper then to a hum as her body curved into the bend of my arm and her head rested against my chest, a position she claimed as hers from the first hour we met. We sat there then letting the love I never knew existed, the love I never knew I was capable of, fill the silence.
I remembered counting her fingers as she wrapped all five of them around one of my own. She blinked through wet eyes, struggled to see me between the squinted openings the light of the room allowed her to have and once she found me I told her I was her father without saying anything at all.
I remembered feeling the weight of her in my arms and the weight of the world on my shoulders. The new challenge, the unquenchable thirst, to be the best person I could be if only to help her become the best person she could be. The insatiable desire to focus on the adventure, the journey, instead of constantly searching for the light ahead at the end of some proverbial tunnel.
A bee buzzed by us landing on a petal and I followed her eyes and watched her watch him. It was only a second before his patience caught up with the speed of his wings and he left just as quickly as he came. In that moment she took note of every movement, tucking questions away in the corner of her mind to retrieve for answers later.
Mother Nature sighed heavily and the breeze of her breath compromised the balance of the toddler at my side. My daughter reached for my hand to steady herself and I counted all five of those now larger, but still small fingers of hers just as I did when she was born. There was a time where I couldn’t see myself as a father, but every time her little hand finds my own I can’t imagine being anything else.
We made our way through the muddy soil, retracing our steps as we went, stopping for impromptu jokes drowning punch lines in laughter even though we’ve swam in the same ones for days on end. We stomped and wiped our boots in the grass as a poor attempt of leaving some of the mud behind then we strapped ourselves in for the ride back home.
“Daddy, why did that bee land on that flower?” she asked as I prepared myself for the landslide of inquiries to follow because when there’s one question, there are many.
I introduced a conversation about the habits of bees and their purpose and why they use pollen from the flowers and discussed hives and honey and all things related to the bee life. She smiled and seemed to accept my answer. She found her reflection in the window by her side and watched the wind resume the game with her curls through the crack at the top.
Later, after dinner was eaten and baths were taken and prayers were said, I tucked her in and kissed her cheek. I told her that I loved her. I told her I enjoyed our time together, that I’d see her in the morning. She wrapped her arm around the stuffed dog she sleeps with every night pulling him close and tucking his nose just under her chin and before I could make it across her room she stopped me.
“Daddy, I thought that bee stopped to smell those flowers.”
It was then I realized she could be right. Maybe some things aren’t as complicated as we make them out to be. Maybe some things don’t require a lengthy explanation. Maybe in the process of teaching our children, we’re the ones learning the most in the end. After all, we pulled over to look at the flowers, to visually soak in their simplicity, to smell them ourselves. I responded with “probably so” as she rolled over giving in to the promise of sleep.
It never gets old… fatherhood, parenting… seeing the world all over again through their eyes.