“Fathers, be good to your daughters, daughters will love like you do,
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers, so mothers be good to your daughters too…”
I recently got asked to help assist with the camp at my church for the summer and of course I accepted, hell, aside from writing I don’t have anything else to do with my summer. It was something that I did back in 2007 and really enjoyed as it helped me to tap into my inner child and get a first hand look at what makes pre-teens tick…sure they’re crazy and have no idea what they are to become at that age but they are, indeed, interesting. I was reading up on some information about the camp in preparation for it to begin in a few weeks and remembered one of my favorite campers named Alexis.
Like most people I had a burning desire to reach the end of the day, I think that it’s safe to say that most of us start to watch the clock intently when we’re about an hour away from getting off work and sliding down that dinosaur tail a la Fred Flintstone and getting in our cars and going home. My last duty every day at the camp was to make sure that the kids were properly signed out by the parents/guardians and make it safely out door. Most of the parents I’ve known for years from Church on Sunday, others I had only recently met and got the pleasure of getting to know during our 2-3 minute conversations waiting on their kids to come out, and still others I only traded gracious smiles with as they signed next to the appropriate “X” and continued their cell phone conversations. At the end of my final 2.5 hours stationed at the front door of the center I’d have seen every parent of the 200 or so campers at the center that day; usually the kids will have come to the front bleary eyed from a nap they were taking in the dark of the movie room, there is inevitably a 7 or 8 year old that wanted to tell their mother or father every single facet of the day before they even said hello, the eventual pre teen will be picked up and start to complain to their mother about the sandwich they had at lunch, and of course anytime one of the 4 or 5 year olds get called I always look forward to them smiling and waving at me and saying, “Bye, Mr. Skrap! See you tomorrow!” but of course that’s dependent on whether or not I had to fuss at that particular camper that day. And while I enjoyed watching all of the kids come out and greet each of their parents in their own way they all paled in comparison to Alexis.
Alexis was 4 at the time and she was a typical 4 year old girl. Excitable, energetic, and always smiling; when she ran her ponytails would trail behind her as if in effort to struggle and stay attached to her head. Usually before she appeared from around the corner and into sight of the reception area her running footsteps can be heard echoing down the walkway. Whatever her class made in Arts and Crafts that day was usually clutched in one hand while her half zipped book bag was always nearly spilling academic work behind her; for the entirety of camp that summer I don’t think she ever zipped that thing all the way closed. While all of this was cute in and of itself there’s nothing I loved more every day than the unequaled joy that enveloped her face when she caught a glimpse of her waiting father. Her run got faster, her face got brighter, and her squeal got louder the closer she got to his waiting arms. From the entrance to the reception area to her father’s usual waiting space near the front door was roughly 30 feet, she manages to stay on the ground for 25 or so of those feet, the last five were usually covered through the air as she made it a practice to drop her bookbag and leap into his arms.
More special to me than Alexis’ reaction is the return reaction from her father, he was never in any hurry to pick up the book bag or the papers that may have spilled out onto the floor, he didn’t worry about the ponytail that went awry and popped him in the eye he she landed in his grasp, there was no real concern that she’s run most of the way with one, or both, shoes untied. As enamored as she was with his presence so was he with her, lost in a daily hug so tight that it resembled a playful attempt to strangle, lost in the repeated call “Daddyyyyyyyy!! Daddyyyyyyy!! in between her girly little giggles. He never immediately said anything back to her, he just always appeared lost in her love for him.
I don’t yet have children, God hasn’t chosen to bless me with them or the vessel by which to carry one, but somehow I think that I know why he appears as lost in the moment as he does, why he greeted his baby girl with the same fervor as one who is seeing a loved one for the first time in a million days. I wondered perhaps if he was fast forwarding to a time when she won’t be as thrilled to see him, perhaps to a day when she was older and teenage indifference started to settle in. He may very well have seen a day in his mind’s eye when he will enter a room and she will offer only a halfhearted “hey dad…” without taking off the earphones to her iPod or pausing from typing a text message to whatever little knucklehead has her attention. He may have even pondered while in the midst of that hug of a day when a really attentive knucklehead has done enough for her to give away the last name of her father and then have a new primary hugging partner for a lifetime. Perhaps all of these reasons and maybe a few more is why he greeted her like he did everyday. But for right now no worries…she’s 4, has pigtails, and was in love with her father. To Alexis, the guy whose neck she was so tightly wrapped around was the only thing in her world that mattered. Her inspiration to throw caution (and pre-K paperwork) to the wind and dodge and dash through the tree like adults in the entranceway. He was the best thing in the world and she was more than happy just to be Daddy’s baby girl.
After a while her father pryed her off his neck and pick up the splayed book bag and tossed it on his own shoulder before picking her back up and waving to me as he walked out of the door. By the time the automatic door closed she was plastered closely to him still giggling, face still bright with the joy only her father brought. She will grow up, she won’t always think her Daddy is the greatest, but what I learned through watching that every afternoon is that all we can concern ourselves with is the here and now, there’s no benefit in worrying about what can or might be, rather, lose yourselves in the joys that currently are. Alexis and her Daddy did…I think of the two of them often and thank them for that every day.
~thanks for reading 🙂