She was the first to arrive. And, for a long time, she was the only one. When we first brought her home from the hospital, I remember how scared I was. That first night, every time she would move or make the smallest sound, I would sit straight up in bed and look in her bassinet to see if she was OK.
But, pretty soon, we started to get more comfortable with each other. And, she would often lay happily cradled under my arm on the couch. And, I would talk and look. And she would listen and sleep.
Eventually, I began to notice that I was a much more popular guy when she was with me – especially with her grandparents. And, the older she got, the truer that became. The sight of her lit her grandad up like a neon sign. He nicknamed her Sadie Mae.
When we would visit him at his local bait and tackle shop, all commerce stopped. He would carry her all around the store and they would explore all the colors and funny shapes on the shelves. And, if it seemed she really liked some item along the way – it had to go home with her. And endlessly, the cash register was always opened and closed and emptied and refilled – usually less a few coins.
As time went by, Sarah only began to look more and more like her mother. But, the best surprise was how much of her mother’s gentle nature was in her. She was a delightful little girl.
But, she insisted on growing, and growing – all the time – growing. I suppose I thought she would always be little. But, I was wrong.
In some ways that was OK though. Because, as she got older, she could tag along after me under her own power – and she did. And, we could play together – in the snow, and in the garden, and under the bed which I raised to bunk bed height so we could install her little kitchen underneath.
And so, we played as on one bright snowy morning when we bounded out the front door to enjoy a new snow. Snow seldom came to our town, but it had decided to do so overnight. So, as we raced through the door, I jumped over the flower bed to beat Sarah into the undisturbed snow on our front lawn. But, I did so only to discover that it was not snow at all. It was a hard layer of sleet.
And sleet, when it freezes together, does not act one bit like snow. So, when I landed on the other side of the flower bed, both feet went out from under me; and, I hit that icey surface flat on my backside.
But, the most humiliating part was the uncontrolled slide across the entire width of our downhill front yard and into the ditch which bordered it. Sarah could not have been happier to observe daddy’s unintended antics. And, I could not have been happier to see her laughing at my calamity.
On another day we were in our vegetable garden, and Sarah was in the big middle of the planting process. I showed her how to use her tiny finger to poke a small hole in the cultivated soil and drop in the seeds. On this particular day, we were planting watermelon seeds. And, little miss Sarah was the princess of the process.
We checked on those seeds every afternoon after supper for a week or two. And eventually, we did have some small vines beginning to develop. It was then that I hit upon a plan.
The next day, on my way home from work, I stopped and bought a big, beautiful watermelon. Then, before I went in for supper, I ran up the hill to our garden spot and put the melon among the young vines.
After supper, I said, “Sarah, are you ready to go check on our watermelon plants?” Her answer was a foregone conclusion, of course. So, up the hill we went gabbing about who knows what as we walked. I made sure that Sarah cleared the brow of the hill first so that she would be the first to spot the watermelon. Never has there been, before or since, such a squeal from a little girl.
Sarah and I eventually had a big laugh over daddy’s joke. But, when we got back home, it took mom a little time to see the humor of it all. Turns out – at least for a moment or two – “It’s not nice to fool Mother’s little girl.” But, as time went by, it all eventually just turned into a cherished memory, even for Mommy – I think.
Sarah is grown up now; and, I’ve grown much older. She actually survived all of my misshapen, inexperienced parenting to grow into a wonderful young woman with kids of her own – mostly thanks to her mother, for sure.
But, I still occasionally revisit those days when Sarah was the only one. I wish we could do it all again. I would do it better this time. And I would do it more – what we did back then.
But, the good thing – I still have her. She’s not the only one anymore. But, she’s still the first one. And, it still remains that she and I share some memories that the others just don’t have. And maybe, we’ll yet share some more of those just dad and Sarah things before it’s all over. I surely hope so.