The resemblance was striking, yet the two figures standing in front of me on the subway platform seemed to have been made out of different material.
The man looked rugged, with large callus-covered hands. The kind of hands that are not afraid of anything and no job to them is dirty. Both hands were busy – one holding a large pink travel bag and the other “Dora the Explorer”-themed lunch box. The man himself was a sort of mix between Manny, from the Handy Manny show, and Shrek, from the popular children’s animation (since the birth of my son, I’ve resigned to the fact that characters from the cartoon network have become my primary points of reference).
His whole large square figure was completely transfixed on a little, delicate, white and pink, thin (my Russian heritage, where detection of bones on a child meant the kid was malnourished and his parents simply didn’t care, is demanding that I say ‘bony’) creature standing next to him.
If I were to dissect each one of her features, a resemblance to Manny the Shrek (her father) would be undeniable. Yet, Mother Nature arranged it all in such a lovely sweet package, it was hard not to smile looking at the girl. With her pink ballerina slippers over her right shoulder, tied together by the long shoe laces, she was explaining some dance routine to her father. While delicate toes were moving in a wonderful coordination, worthy of any great subway performance, I could’t stop observing her father's reaction.
As the girl demanded that he would repeat the dance steps, he tried to imitate her with all his being, seemingly forgetting that he was surrounded by other subway riders. He was so consumed by the pink wonder that was his daughter, he was looking at her with the intensity that I can only compare to watching a thread going through the needle’s ear.
He tried earnestly to follow every step the girl was describing, sighing with relief every time she gave him her approval. On his face I could simply read, “my sweet little girl, what a smart little cookie you are growing up to be.”
I recently read that true gifts of love are not flowers and chocolate (contrary to the Valentines and Mother’s Day advertisements). The true gift of love is undivided attention.
If I had to sum it up in one word what I was observing that day, I’d say it was pride. No, I lie. I am not eloquent enough to be able to come up with one word that could adequately describe the love a father feels for his child. It was pride, joy, awe, spirit, hope, worry, appreciation, dedication, responsibility, generosity, respect……….… Wiping the sweat from his forehead, he was smiling. He was clearly engaged in a participatory listening (a sure symptom of true love). Wow! That’s the kind of love this little ballerina was soaking in. In her father's eyes I saw the warm rays of adoration that nourishes the child’s spirit.
There is a Russian saying that roughly translates into “whatever is hurting one, that’s what one talks about.” I wonder, is that why I am compelled to write and to idolize a father and daughter that I saw in passing on a subway (honestly, what do I know about these people?)
Maybe the answer is in the fact that it took my father nearly 30 years to find the generator that makes an abundance of love rays. I am grateful for that – I get to bask in their glory as long as we both shall live. But somewhere deep within will always live a little nugget of envy – why wasn’t it always that way? Why wasn’t my father showering me with his love since the beginning of time, my time? Why? Why? (Don’t I sound like a three-year-old?)
Whatever the answer, there is a soft spot in my soul. The soft spot for little girls in pink who remind me of me, and their Shrek-looking fathers, who remind me of the father I’ve always wanted.