I drove the minivan to church and parked near our usual spot. We each unbuckled a kid and helped them to the front doors. Erica held Ella’s hand as she slipped her way across the ice and I carried Pax in my arms while he shielded himself from the bright winter morning sun that reflected off every snow covered surface.
Once inside, we made our way down the steps to the classroom. Ella has attended children’s church in this classroom for over three years. Pax was excited that he and I were beating the girls to the room and spastically shook his arms out of his coat sleeves so he could rush in before his sister. Erica stood and talked with the teachers while I removed Ella’s coat, revealing her gold and white Christmas dress and matching cardigan.
“You look beautiful.” I said as more than just a matter of fact. My heart truly adored her.
I took her coat and started to hang it on the row of hooks next to her brother’s, but she stopped me and said “I can reach it!” she had already grabbed the coat from my hand and started searching for the little loop of fabric below the collar.
I stood back and watched her reach with both her hands and on her tip-toes to get that loop around the lower hook. I had already started to reminisce when she turned and smiled at me and said “I’m all growed up! See?” That was all I could handle, something about the pride in her voice and the smile on her face overwhelmed me. I saw two girls standing there in front of me. I saw my daughter at two years old whose coat I had to take off and hang while she steadied herself to stand. At two years old she didn’t have a baby brother yet, she was still wearing diapers and barely spoke. Now I saw a young lady beaming with pride at her accomplishments and declaring her independence. I’m glad at the way she said it though, “growed”. It helped keep my tears at bay. It was the only reminder that she was still my little baby.
I scooped her up in my arms and gave her a kiss. She gave me the sweetest kiss back on my cheek then leaned backward to look in my eyes and said, “Merry Christmas, Daddy.”