A bald head crowned by a few curls peeks out. Two eyes large and watchful wait and see what I might do.
I’m not moving. I stand silent. I’m a daddy statue.
Tiny hands cover her eyes. She tries to catch my gaze.
No way. I’m having no part of it. Not yet.
She opens them. She peeks carefully at me. Then covers herself with the blanket.
“Peep bo!” The blanket speaks.
That’s my moment. My eyes close. Although I keep the good one only an eighth open. Enough to cheat. Enough not to get caught.
Each time she closes her eyes, I open mine. Each time I see her open her eyes, I close mine!
Blanket on. “Peep bo!”
Blanket off. Blanket on. “Peep bo!”
Blanket off. “Peep Bo!”
“Peep bo!” I say again. Before the blanket went on.
I chuckle as the blanket giggles and rolls on the floor. Then smile at her laughter while she wriggles her way out. Usually she beats me to it. Then as she unwravels…
“Peep Bo!” She got me that time.
The blanket again wraps itself up. It giggles and rolls on the floor. Then she crawls out. And stands a little taller than this morning. Now her jumpsuit is too small for her. But that’s no matter now.
Two arms stretch to the sky. She starts to waggle her fingers. Twinkle twinkle? Yes i’m happy to sing that with her. But no peeking. Otherwise she’ll catch me lip syncing.
Then she stops stock still.
No. I was lucky there. Then not so lucky.
Oh no! Daddy workout time.
Arms stretch high. “As high as the sky.”
I squat down. I waddle towards her. I put my shoulders under her arms. Then my hands around her waist.
I lift her up. Until her head is level with mine. Her eyes are already laughing. Daddy’s doing the heavy lifting now.
I stand up and throw her high into the air.
Giggles, then laughter.
I stop just before I let her go. I’m not a dad, I’m an astronaut trainer. Besides she’ll never get vertigo from me!
“Again. High as the sky.”
More deep squats. More overhead presses. My knees ache. My shoulders sing. I sneak a glance at my burden.
She’s frozen in time!! One arm up, one arm out, frozen in a ballet pose.
Carefully I shift her to my stronger arm. I lean forward, most weight pushed backward and draw back the coverlet, sheet and blanket. Then i place her in her bed as if one false move would be the last. She slumps flaccid in her bed. I cover her up. I start to lightly leave…
Her hand finds my finger. And crushes it. I hold my breath. I listen to her breath slow and deep measuring eternity one second at a time.