Tattered, Brown Backpack

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A long, long time ago at a fire department not so far away, a firefighter sat on the living room carpet playing with Barbies opposite an angel masquerading as a bright-eyed six-year-old girl.

For over an hour, the two were lost in the world of child’s play while he waited for the next emergency call. The little girl, a frequent visitor with her mom, was the only child of the captain who worked at the station.

With each visit, the little brown-eyed girl brought with her a tattered, brown backpack full of Barbie dolls and the imagination only a child can bring. And each time, the not-so-old firefighter stopped what he was doing to sit on the living room carpet and join in playing with the Barbies. With a child of his own only a few years older, he knew the time of child’s play was fleeting for the little girl.

As the years passed, the captain climbed the ladder, earning the rank of Battalion Chief and retired after 29 years of service. Finally leaving the fire trucks behind, he went on to start a successful real-estate and appraisal business.

And what of his little girl? Her visits to the fire department had become less frequent through the years as she also grew up. Sadly, one day, she put away the tattered, brown backpack full of Barbies, storing it in the bottom of her closet where it was eventually forgotten. There were more grown-up things that demanded her attention.

In high school she excelled not only in her studies, but also on the volleyball court, becoming an important member of one of the winningest teams in the school’s history. Like with all teenagers, there were bumps and bruises and a few missteps along the way, but with guidance from two understanding and loving parents, she prevailed.

As a senior in high school with stellar grades, she had her pick of almost any college to attend after graduation. She chose the University of Georgia. Years later, she would be able to point to that decision as a turning point in her life and one of the best she ever made.

The little girl, now all but grown, attended UGA and started her major in finance. Still, the girl from a small southern town felt there was something missing in her life. Or someone.

During her second year of college, there was a chance meeting with a special person who lived just three houses down the street. Soon a friendship started that would change their lives forever.

Last week, twenty-three years after first playing with Barbies at the fire department and six years after graduating from UGA, she got married to that man of her dreams.

Congratulations, Allie, to you and the new life with your husband. The Wife and I wish for you all the happiness and joy the world can bring. And, hopefully in a few years, you’ll pull out that tattered, brown backpack, sit on the living room floor, and play Barbies opposite an angel of your own … masquerading as a bright-eyed little girl.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]