A Moment Remembered
Dusted with snow, we moved back toward the car. I was telling him about my memories of sledding when I was a boy.
Tyler listened intently, as he always does: interrupting to ask a question, the meaning of a word, or why I pulled such stupid stunts.
I remembered the stainless steel “flying saucers”, sturdy twin-rail sleds, toboggan runs through the brush, ramps, accidents—all the pleasures of playing in snow.
We had been on the hill for an hour. Even after running into a sled the day before, receiving a shiner for his efforts, he had begged me to go again today.
The snow crunched under foot; a pleasant sound in the silence of the moment.
“Hey, dad! Now I have stories to tell my kids when I get older!”
There was a rustle of feathers. The brush exploded as it got up.
I spun, reacting to the cacophony of sound, instinctively placing finger to trigger, left eye closed, stock to cheek, the barrel on line with the bird.
Short tail. All brown. No color.
“Hen!” I shouted, just in case my teenage partner didn’t see.
Number seven. A few moments later we headed for the car. It was getting late and dark.
Out of all the brush we walked through, not one rooster. To have seen one and missed is one thing but to not have seen one at all is another.
Especially since Tyler was along.
Ever since he was four, my son has accompanied me on many excursions during pheasant hunting season. His joy and excitement cannot be matched both when he is asked to go and when a cock falls from the sky.
“Man, Dad, that last one got up right in front of me! Scared me so bad, I almost peed my pants right there!”
I smiled and gazed into those dancing eyes.
Had he noticed, my eyes were not on the dance floor. I don’t get to go out often; not much time during the school year to hunt. So I like to make the most of it.
Almost in resignation, forever the teacher, I asked, “So what should we learn from this: seven birds, no roosters?”
Tyler pondered for a moment. I thought he might lament with me over not seeing game we could shoot. Surely he would share my frustration.
“I guess I learned tonight that sometimes you work so hard for something and don’t get it,” he said, without emotion.
That was that.
And the teacher became the student.
A Daughter’s Repose, A Father’s Response
Her four year old neck is so tender. My hands find their way there easily. Life pulses warm, so close to the skin.
Her soft, flushed skin, unbroken by blemish, weathered roughness, or age is a joy to my touch. I stroke her satin cheek. She turns her head ever so slightly toward me. As long as I continue, she stays unmoved.
She invades my space. This alien is always welcome.
Often after I return from school in the evening she will run to me, arms outstretched, jumping just before she reaches my feet; I catch her. Chelsea’s face rides into the pocket between my neck and shoulder; a low purr emitted when the spot is found.
If I am reading on the couch, she climbs, head on my shoulder, body laid on mine, her hand rests on my chest. Ever so slightly, in circular motion, her hand moves in reassurance, in youthful affection.
Supine, watching television, she will come and lay with me. Melting, molding her body into mine, she finds her comfort zone and relaxes, content, satisfied.
Always a smile, unnoticed by her, dawns on my face.
We were driving home after a school activity, just Chelsea and I.
My daughter reached across my lap and took my hand in hers. She looked at her little hand in mine, stroked my fingers with hers.
Chelsea is five.
“Sweetness?” the pet name I use for her, “Will you hold my hand when you are six?”
“Daddy!” Her exclamation is tinged with castigation.
“I will hold your hand when I’m 5, when I’m 6, and when I’m old and you’re old. Daddy, I will always hold your hand!”
The road ahead became a bit blurred.
It wasn’t raining.
Thanksgiving holiday calls for family memories; here are a few of mine, stories written 20 years ago. My hope is that y’all will have some of your own.