You're walking home from the train station one evening, and you notice a little girl standing across the street with her mom. About five years old or so, with a smile on her face. She seems to be searching. She's adorable, so you watch her out of the corner of your eye as you walk.
Suddenly, she sees what she's been looking for and her face lights up in an incredible smile. Daddy! she says, and she moves into a little run toward a man in his 30's. He crosses the street as she approaches, and he drops his briefcase to the sidewalk as the little girl hurls herself into his arms. He lifts her, the woman picks up his briefcase, and they walk away, smiles and quiet chatting from them all.
You assume it's a special occasion of some sort, perhaps he's been away for a bit. But it makes you feel kind of warm inside anyway.
A couple of weeks later, it becomes apparent that this wasn't a special occasion, or an isolated instance. Every time you catch the 7:14 train and debark in your village, the little girl and her mom are waiting. Sometimes they are running a little late, and they are still halfway down the hill as the father is coming up.
But each evening, her eyes search for him. And once she sees him, the joy lighting up her face is wondrous to behold. Every evening, she runs toward him full tilt. Every evening she throws herself at him, confident in her trust that he will catch her in mid-air.
And every evening, when he sees his little girl and hears that exclamation -- Daddy! -- his face lights up as brightly as hers, and the sheer joy is evident for all watching. And every evening he catches his little girl mid-air, holding her close, as they engage in the private communication that only a father and his little girl can understand.
He never pushes her away, never cautions her about getting his suit dirty, never says daddy had a bad day. Just joy, and catching her in his arms. And regardless of what may happen when they get home, they have these moments together every evening.
You can't help but feel some of that good feeling every time you see them together. But at the same time, there's a little nagging thought in the back of your head that comes forward. Just a little question.
What kind of person would you be today if you'd had that kind of unconditional love from your father (or your mother, you suppose)? If you'd known that kind of joy with and from your father? Would you be more outgoing, more self-assured, have better self-esteem? Would you continually, futilely, seek that kind of love from all the wrong people? In all the wrong places? In all the wrong ways?
Who, or what, might you be if you'd had...that. From someone. Anyone. When you were that little girl.
Of course, you chuckle to yourself, you realize you'll never know the answer. But you will ask yourself the question anyway. Every once in a while. And you'll wonder.
photo mine...it's the hill in the story, and one of two I climb to get home each night