When we walk by a tree in winter time, we take for granted that it is alive, when in fact, it may not be. It could have been diseased, or had its last full year of health. It’s not until spring time, when trees come alive again, that we know for sure. The same is inversely true when children have cancer. You can walk right by them, and never know even know if they’ll be around tomorrow. They can look as healthy as a blooming peach tree, with its delicate pink blossoms, beckoning your gaze, but in fact be so near death that it is impossible to know when they might go.
There is no other living thing more beautiful or enchanting than a happy child. I have five of them; ages 3 to 16, and nearly every sound they make draws a reaction, from delightful surprise to annoyance; from pleasure to pain. But their laughter, now that, as I’ve told my children once if I’ve told them a million times, especially while tickling them, is “the best sound in the world!” It says, “I’m happy to be alive!”
My only daughter has the best laugh, partly because she is the youngest, and the higher pitched giggle-shriek-laugh is almost overwhelmingly appealing, but most probably though, because she is my daughter. A father can be somewhat partial to his daughter at times, compared to his sons, and it can be forgiven.
My daughter is a magical little fairy gift, given for some unknown good deed I must’ve done to deserve such a bewitching and bedazzling, beautiful and enchanting creature. Now she is alive!
She prefers pink and purple; never blue, but sometimes red. She will wear dresses and tutus only, please; don’t you dare try to put pants on my daughter! She will tolerate stockings, but only if it’s cold, and try to invite her to wear pajamas in the winter? I think not, for it’s nightgowns only for her, and only princess or fairy prints will do, thank you very much!
Even if it merely comes from her humming some spry tune, she dances and twirls at the hint of music. Her sparkling, smiling eyes say it all: “I love life, and I love you!”
She certainly holds her own, even with four older brothers. Her 13-year-old brother, the teaser in the group, made the mistake early in his sister’s development, of showing her how to make a fist, and then punch with it. It backfired. His nose bled a bit the first time, and then he learned to hold her at a distance, lest she demonstrate again what a good teacher of self-defense he was. My daughter sees right through her brothers, and she will give back every single ounce of what they give her, and then some! She will captivate them with a twinkling eye, coy head tilt, or mesmerizing smile, with those big, brown eyes and never-shorn sun-fired hair of summer honey red, expecting every last thing she asks them for.
I can’t imagine a day without her. I can’t imagine her not dancing, or laughing, or playing with her dolls. I can’t imagine. But I did.
Katy Stewart, ofSag Harbor, came into my life like so many children have over my years as an educator, very casually at first. But then, like a freight train barreling down the tracks, she rolled into my heart and soul.
My phenomenal middle school girls’ tennis coach, Mr. Alvin Hollander, who literally built the tennis program for Pierson Middle/High School from the ground up by sheer will, it seemed, came to me one day, as he usually did, humble, self-deprecating, and a bit spicy with sarcasm, and asked a simple question: “How many girls can I keep on the team?”
This brainchild tennis team was his baby. He gave his free time (and Doug DeGroot, then the tennis manager for theMashashimuetParktennis program, gave courts and support), and he offered free “open court” tennis instruction at the Park the summer before our first season. The number of girls who showed up was not overwhelming that summer, but we had budgeted for a tennis team, and we were determined to at least see it through the first couple of weeks of September, to see if we could at least get ten girls (the minimum needed to have a team) to come out and give it a go.