For this, my last column of the year, I’ll do something different. Instead of looking into the past for a story, I’ll simply look down in order to look into the future.
Last night Sweet Caroline asked if her Papa could rock her to sleep and tell her a story. Happy to do both, with a sippy cup in hand, I switched the lights to the bedroom off.
Instantly the nightlight shined a galaxy of stars that covered every inch of the ceiling. After I sank into the bedroom rocker recliner, Caroline leapt into my arms. Looking down at the little angelic face framed by my old well-worn hands, a story instantly came to mind. As she sipped her “night night” drink, I recited the following story to her in a soothing voice.
One day, like tomorrow, you’ll be too big to sit on your Papa’s knee, and I’ll be too old. As fun as it has been, running and jumping up into my arms with a whole body hug will be no more. That’s a sad day I’m not looking forward to, but if you are to grow up, it’s a day that must come. And as quickly as it arrives, the little girl you are now will leave and be gone forever.
One day, like tomorrow, you’ll fix your own hair in the morning. A messy bun or a French or waterfall braid could be your style.
No longer will twin pigtails dance across your back as you run after a butterfly or the seeds from a blown dandelion. You will have out grown them, just like you will outgrow me fixing your hair each morning. Big Papa’s hair salon will be officially out of business. The small red and blue “Hair Chair” in the front room, present since your birth, will be gone. With it you will be too. But if you’re to grow up and become the lady you’re meant to be, you must fix your own hair and, yes, eventually leave.
One day, like tomorrow, driving you to and from school will no longer be a daily occurrence. Big Papa’s taxi will remain in the garage when time comes for dance classes, gymnastics, soccer, or other afterschool activities.
You’ll never say it, but riding with your Papa isn’t as cool as driving yourself. Independence will be yours, and soon thereafter, you’ll be driving yourself to college. I’ll sell my car then and buy something smaller. The need for extra room for all that equipment, and additional seating for your teammates, will be leaving with you.
With the story almost finished, she fell asleep, but I continued to rock her for a while. The story ending eluded me, as I was lost in the moment. The stars circling overhead, the heavens dropped an angel in my arms. Rocking, I looked down at her, and thought how blessed I truly am.
For I have not one granddaughter but two. Her sister, Little One, was already asleep in her bed. Finally, with great effort from unwilling muscles and joints, I rose, hobbled across the bedroom and laid her gently in bed. Tucking the sheets and blanket around her, I bent over, kissed her forehead, and said the same thing I’ve said every time I put her to sleep, “Sweet dreams, my love. Big Papa loves you.”
Reaching for the door, I looked back at that small little face so relaxed and so calm, and the end of this story came as easy as the beginning.
“One day is tomorrow, but don’t worry, Sweet Caroline. Tomorrow is many, many years away.”
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]