Coming out of my favorite bookstore today, I saw a youngish-looking older father, or perhaps just a prematurely grey one, walking with his little daughter. She looked to be no more than three. A Saturday reading of Curious George had just ended about the time I paid for my sack of small extravagances, and a December wind blew parents and children a little closer to one another on ziggy paths of serial distraction back to their cars. Low overhead, a grey-flannel weave of rain clouds added just enough quiet to the scene and framed it in a way that said “watch this and pay attention.”
The girl was bundled up in warm leggings and a pink dress with all sorts of frilly stuffing in it. Her hair was a magazine puff of deep gold ringlets with a circus of bright ribbons. I wondered if the dad had taken the time to prepare her elaborate ensemble that morning or if he had received her that way from her mother. I wondered how long he had waited for her to come into his life and how magical it must have felt to share that story time with her. A few steps into the parking lot, still gripping her father’s hand, she broke into an energetic skip, mixed with a backward jazz kick. She experimented with this for a few more steps. Then, just as I came alongside them, she got her groove just right and chirped “Daddy! Do this!”
I knew his first answer before it left his lips, because it was once my first answer too. “Oh… I couldn’t do that as good as you.” He shot me a self-conscious sideways glance, but during our flicker of eye contact I smiled at him. His attention darted back to his little daughter as she kicked and skipped even harder. “Oh…there’s no way I could do that as good as you,” he said. She was almost breathless, but still dancing as if her life depended on it. “Yes…you…can, Daddy!” She was relentless, channeling ancient chorus lines now in her miniature pink tights. She was completely unaware of me. Unaware of anything in that moment but her Daddy and her will to celebrate life with all her might. “Do this, Daddy, do this!”
I looked away briefly to tug my coat a little tighter and fumble for my keys. When I glanced up again, he was matching her skip for skip and kick for kick. All the way back to their car. Good for him. The little girl knows something that most of us forget before we make it to the sixth grade. And I’m pretty sure her father remembers now too. We were all born to dance.
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