Will she remember those hands? I hope so. I like to think she will recall them long after tonight ends. Their place in her memory will likely outlast the event details, and she will recall the large, rough, and callused hands that fastened on the simple corsage, a first for both of them — a yellow carnation on a slip of elastic with a bit of Velcro.
My role was simple, dressing assistant and photographer, and it was not until they tromped out into the rain that I began to swallow the tears away. My dad and I never went to an organized dance though we danced at my wedding and I remember the hands that held my own and the eyes that were bright with happiness.
We may not have attended a dance in my youth, but we did regularly go to Indian Princess outings, and the year after my brother died, we joined that same group of dads and teenage daughters and went white water rafting in the North Carolina mountains. It meant something to me, the effort my own father made sure to make and now I was witnessing the same for my daughter, only this time between she and her father.
It is his hands I want her to long for, his hands that may have fumbled awkwardly with the yellow nondescript flower, but hands that were steady and sure. A part of the father that had made sure to be home plenty early to ease the impatient daughter, just six and already a staunch timekeeper when it came to her daddy and his promises of forthcoming activities.
If he made her wait, there was hell to pay, and I enjoyed the berating as much as any mother who has given up on squabbling over repeated nuances that seem to have no change in the future of a marriage. It is she who has turned the tides. Those small hands reaching out to him most evenings for a hug goodnight, coaxing the strong hands for a swing in the bath towel and a toss on the bed, a plea to be tickled. She has worked her way into his heart in a way that I never could, and I think it is marvelous.
I want her to remember the one who fell in love with her first, and though he belonged to another, I hope her mind and heart are capturing tiny snapshots of what real love should resemble. It is kind and gentle and nurturing and comes by the way of a father’s touch, a cool hand to smooth away the thick dark mane of hair so that he may feel for a fever. The hands that hold her wee ones as they cling to one another and alternate bounces on the trampoline that Santa brought three Christmases ago.
Those hands that recently gave the small girl a corsage would soon rub sunscreen on the growing limbs of the daughter wriggling impatiently before him. This summer, they will cover her own as she participates in the age-old tradition of learning to drive the boat, and I will watch and capture the moment in my mind. I will send a silent message. Remember those hands, my darling. Both of you.