I know, most people have read this one already. And you know me and my girls… They are my life.  But they also remind me of The Little Girl In The Blue House… Is there someone missing her? Someone talking to her each day? Is she waiting for someone? Is she okay?

 ________________________

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The Little Girl In The Blue House

I always walk the same way to the train station. I take the shortest route. I have too. Way too early to walk one meter further than I have to. Or one minute longer than what is needed. There is another route. Slightly longer. But all the time in the world if it is so bloody early in the morning. My normal route is an easy walk. Turn right, then a quick left and straight down to the station. A quick and easy 20 minute stroll.  And who said I don’t get enough exercise… But today I had to go the slightly longer route. Turn left, turn right and down the slightly longer walk to the station. Not by much. Just about 5 minutes added. But sometimes the longer route brings more than just a longer walk. And this morning I got more than I wanted. Another reason why I never like walking that route. A reminder. A memory.

My oldest daughter always does the “left turn” walk. Her friend from across the street walks with her to the bus stop. They pick up another friend along the way and off they go. But not this morning. The girl from across the road didn’t feel too well so she couldn’t walk with my daughter. Dad duties called. I am the backup. So off we went. On our left turn. 

We were joking as we walked. Doing our “home boy” walk down the street. Me doing funny walks and funny voices to show her how I was going to embarrass her in front of her friend who has never met me. Doing my typical dad stuff. We got to the house. I gave her a hug and a kiss and watched her walk to meet her friend. And off I went. Taking my right turn down the road. The slightly longer road.

I put my iPod on and was listening to A Fine Frenzy when I walked past the blue house. And it brought back memories of the little girl who lived there. The little girl in the blue house.

She was the first friend my oldest daughter made at her new school when we moved here. They were in the same class. Hung out together. I saw her often. At the school. Or at the park. Or just in the streets when we were walking. But she was always there when we took my daughter to school. Running to great her friend. She was scrawny just like my daughter. But she was a little bit too thin. A little bit too pale.

In summer she always had just a t-shirt on. And in winter. A very worn and tatty thin little jacket. And trust me. It gets damn cold over here in Boston in winter. I remember seeing her with her arms folded to try and keep some heat in that little body of hers. You could see she was cold. But that was all she had for winter.

Her mother was always well dresses. With the latest fashion. Clothes and accessories she bought at the mall. She looked well looked after. And warm. Not like her little girl. But we didn’t see her at school often. Or anywhere for that matter. She didn’t walk with her little girl that often.

And they stayed just down the road from the school. It looked like a pretty house from the outside. That blue house where the girl stayed.

I often took my girls to the park at the school. And we’ll see her there often. On her own. On the swings. And she’ll be so happy to see my daughters. She was always so good to my little one. Running up to her and giving her a hug and a kiss and playing with her. She was a nice little girl. That little girl from the blue house.

My daughter always told us about her friend. And how she shared her snacks at school with her because she never had snacks. So my wife put in a few extra snacks for two. Never mentioned it to the little girl. Didn’t want her to feel odd. My daughter just shared because that is how she is. It was her friend. No questions.

And one day she told us that the girl was so exited about going to visit her dad in Arkansas. Her parents were divorced. And she lived with her mother and boyfriend in the blue house. The boyfriend had a nice BMW convertible. Nice car. Pretty new. They obviously had some money. Just not always for the little girl. But she was excited. She was going to visit her dad.

And then we saw her during the holiday. When she was meant to be at her dad. It was the first time I really saw her sad. The smile wasn’t there. She spoke to my daughter in a low sad voice and I didn’t want to ask too many questions. Didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable. I just wanted her to be a little girl. Playing with her friend. And having fun the way 10-year old girls are meant to have fun. So I let them talk and watched as they started playing and giggling. And the smile started coming back. She was with her friend.

The odd thing was that apart from that day I always saw her smile. A big old child smile. I never heard her complain. Not in front of me in any case. She always looked happy. But you could see that there was something missing. You just had to look carefully.

I always hug and kiss my girls. No matter where we are. When we drop them off at school. When I say goodbye in the morning. When they go to sleep at night. Or just because we feel like a hug and a kiss. Which is often. No matter where we are. And this little girl saw this. Saw how I hugged my girls. And she wanted one too.

I used to see her looking at me and my daughter when we hug. And then one day she came up to me when I took my girl to her school and asked for a hug. She was a little bit shy about asking. But I just gave my girl a hug and she looked at me with her tatty top with the long sleeves and peeked at me. “Can I get a hug please?” “Of course!” I said. I gave her a big old hug. And she hugged back. Hugging maybe a little longer and harder than what I expected. Almost as if she didn’t get a lot of hugs and would like to get hugs more often. She was only ten.

And that was how it was. Whenever she saw me she would come running up to me and give me a hug. And I’ll hug her back. And I’ll give her a smile and ask how she was doing. It became a standard thing. I never really thought much about it. I knew she wanted a hug and I gave her one. We can do with more hugs in this world. And I didn’t think that she got too many hugs elsewhere in any case.

And then one day she was just gone. Just gone. Her mother packed their bags in the middle of the night and just disappeared. Gone. Not even a goodbye. Not even a last hug. Just gone with her tatty little top. We never knew what happened to her. How she is doing or how she is feeling. Is she with her dad? Is she okay? Is she happy? Is she being a kid? Did she get a warmer jacket? Is she still smiling those big old smiles of hers? Is she getting any hugs? Or is she still playing alone in the park?

Time passed and memories started fading. We’ll mention her every now and again and just wonder.

And then we started looking at buying a house. And one of the houses that was on the market was the blue house. The blue house where the little girl stayed. So off we went to look at the house. Thinking that maybe we can buy it and make it our little house. Until we opened the front door and walked in.

My wife and myself just looked at each other when we walked in. I knew what she was thinking. It was my thoughts to.

The house stank. It was dirty. So dirty. Everything was a mess. Stuff lying on the floor everywhere. Clothes. Plates. Old food. Ashtrays overflowing. Wet spots. I have never, ever seen anything like this anywhere. And I have been to some places… It has been like this for a long, long time. Our shoes got stuck on the sticky dirt that was on the floors. All the rooms were in a mess. You couldn’t even see what color the walls or carpets were. It was brown. From dirt and cigarette smoke. I felt nauseous. Sick. The ex-boyfriend was lying in bed downstairs watching something on a big screen television. On his huge water bed. With plates and empty bottles and cigarettes lying all around him. A pig in a pigsty.

We went up the stairs to look at the real bedrooms. And we walked into the room that would have been that little girls room. It was a mess. Just a mess. No place for a little girl. Any little girl. Dirty. Filthy. Disgusting. You could see little things she must have tried to do to make it a little girl’s room. A little picture here and there. A ripped out poster. A wonky little table where she must have tried to study. Some girlie jewelery lying on the floor amongst the dirt that she must have forgotten to pack in the haste. But it was covered in a floor that ran skew. Holes in the floors and roof. And cold. And this was in winter. No heating. This was the room of the little girl with the big smile.

My wife and myself just looked at each other. We knew what each of us were thinking. We just wanted to get out. Just wanted to forget that we ever came. That we ever knew that little girl. And that she lived there. Her little room in the blue house.

We sat in the car and just stared at nothing for a while. And then she said it. “She lived in that house.” That’s all that needed to be said. We knew. The little girl in the blue house.

And walking past that house this morning reminded me of her. That little girl in the blue house. Made me think. Again. How did she do it? How did she manage? How did she remain a little girl in that house? How long can she be that girl with the big old kid smile? How long before she falls through the cracks? Is she strong enough? Where will she find the love she needs? The hugs she deserves? How is the little girl from the blue house doing?

The little girl from the blue house. I hope you remember me. I hope you remember those hugs. I just wish I hugged you a little harder and a little longer.

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hello

“Hello.”

And then a big smile and a wave.

I just loved it. Just loved it. My oldest daughter used to walk around greeting everyone in the streets. It doesn’t matter who they were. It didn’t matter that she didn’t know them. She just smiled and waved, and said hello. We do that in Africa. Walk around like a bunch of happy-clappies waving and greeting and smiling at people we don’t know.

It made me feel part of something bigger. Just knowing that they are my people. We are one big family. Really. You should see how we greet each other. Not just a little nod of the head or lifting of the eyebrow. No, not us crazy Africans. We go all out. We say hello as if it is our best friend that we haven’t seen for years. The long lost brother. The sister that went to college. The Biblical son returning. “How are you?” “I’m great thanks! And you?” “Great! Cheers!” Crazy Africans.

We have enough shit going on in Africa to enjoy the little things like greeting each other on the streets. Just acknowledging that it’s okay. That we are okay. That we are somehow connected.

It didn’t matter where I was in Africa. I can be walking in the streets in Zimbabwe and people will greet me and I will greet them – with a smile. I’ll sit in a bar in Zambia and someone will walk over and start talking to me. Asking questions about where I’m from and what I’m doing in Lusaka or do I want another beer. “Hey buddy, why don’t you come with us to the Green Frog?” Aah… The Green Frog. Dancing and drinking with people I’ve never met and will most likely never see again. The market in Bamako (Mali) and the guy walking with me to show me around and help me out with the French spoken at the stalls. Guess what. He didn’t want to get paid for it. He just wanted to show me his town and maybe have a beer with me.

It used to drive my wife crazy. I’ll walk into a bar and “check out the scene”. Searching for my next victim… I mean “friend”. Anyone that’s alone. And I’ll start talking to them. It is especially good when it is a foreigner. Just talk and hear their stories. Where they are from, how is their mom and dad, what they are doing over here, what beer do they want. You name it and I’ll talk about it. I’ve heard some great stories thanks to these strangers. And then we’ll say goodbye and never talk again. But I’ll remember them and I hope they’ll remember me. The crazy guy from Africa. They were African for a day or two. One of us. All of us. And it started with a simple “hello”.

And I miss that.

I miss the warmth. The sense of humanity. The acknowledgement of each other. The small moments of happiness. The connection of life and living.

And I miss seeing my daughters do that.

My oldest daughter was just a few years old when we moved over to the UK. She still walked around greeting everyone. Thank God we stayed in a small village of about 2,000 people. They got to know her. The crazy African kid who greets everyone. At first people stared at her and then slowly looked up at us parent, thinking that she must be a “special needs” kid. Some even gave us the “shame, poor you” look. Feeling sorry for these parents with the backward kid. But the little one didn’t care. She just kept on greeting.

And slowly but surely she won them over. The older people were the first to come around to her way of thinking. They loved seeing her greeting and waving at them. Shocked at first and then just a huge smile thanks to this skinny little girl with the big eyes and even bigger smile. And the looks they gave us parents – that was just all that was needed for us to know that we were okay as parents. They would look at us and greet us as well. With a big smile and a thank you in their eyes. And sometimes a little “What a nice little girl” comment to go with that.

My youngest one – born in the UK with the American accent (but South African passport)? Well, I don’t know if it is in our blood. But she greets people. She’ll stop to talk to people as we walk to the park. Especially if they have a baby or a dog. “Isn’t she cute dad?” Me? “Hi, sorry about that. She just loves babies.”

When did I lose my “hello”?

I really can’t say. I don’t know when it happened. Maybe it was the continuous looks I got in the UK. Or the stares in the US. Maybe I started switching off after too many blank returns and rejections. But I don’t really greet strangers anymore. And I miss that.

We don’t accept peple for who they are anymore. We are too scared. Scared shitless. We reject people for who we think they might be.

I am not crazy. I am not a rapist. I am not a child molester. I am not a sex offender. I am not a maniac. I am not a murderer. I’m not a mugger. I am just me. Living a life and trying to be as good as what I can be. I live Ubuntu. But Ubuntu isn’t always around.

Must I wear a banner around my neck to say who I am not?

I see little kids and sad grown-ups around me. All I want to do is stop for a minute and ask them how they are. Maybe give the little one a hug and a kiss. Tell them that the world will be okay. Just go and be a kid and enjoy going down the slide for a while. Swing low and swing high. Go around and around on the merry-go-round. It a bit like life. But without the worries that go with it.

But I can’t. Because of others.

I have to pick my battles. Be friendly to the person behind the counter at Honey Farms. Smile at the girl in Starbucks. At a push, talk to the person squashed in next to me when the train is packed like sardines. Hug a client I got to know really well. Or kiss a friend I haven’t seen for a while. On the cheek, of course. Oh so European.

What have we done? What the fuck have we done? To this world and to our lives?

Why can’t we even stop and talk anymore? Or just greet each other?

I know some things are cultural. Where I come from we kiss on the lips just to say hello. Men and women. Okay, more women than men. But I kiss my cousins on the lips when I see them. Men and women. I kissed my father on the lips even though we hardly spoke. And my brother. And my brother-in-laws. Even my ex brother-in-law. I kiss my best friends. On the lips. It’s just a hello.

I don’t want anything more from them. I just want to feel the link. That we are one. That we love each other. In a different way than when I kiss my wife. But so many times I just want to kiss the person I am friends with. Say hello in the way I know best because it means I open myself to my most vulnerable self. Take my lips. Our eyes will be close for a minute and the connection is confirmed. Just a kiss hello.

But I can’t. We can’t. It doesn’t fit in with our culture. At best I can get a hug. Or a kiss on the cheek. And I can live with that. It is easier because I know them already. We are already friends. There is already some connection. And with time it will grow. I hope.

But I know I miss my hello. When talking to strangers.

I have become one of those who worry about my kids. Not like when I was young. I could play in the streets and talk to strangers. But not today. Not in the life we live and the craziness that goes around.

Even that little girl in the blue house. I gave her hugs and ruffled her hair. But I always had to check who was looking. Just to make sure they don’t think anything funny was going on. She was just a little girl. Needing a hug. And I had to check that no one thought anything else.

How did we become like this?

We can say it is because of all the weirdos out there. The rapists and the child abusers and stealers of kids. I know they are out there. But somewhere along the line we allowed them to win. We allowed them to define who we are. And how we say hello.

How did the hello start to hurt us? How did the hello become a way to divide us? How did the hello move from love to scare?

I struggle with this every single day. How do you bring up your child to love everyone and still know about the danger out there? I don’t know. We all play it safe. We tell them not to say hello. Not to talk to strangers. Not to trust people they don’t know. Not to just say hello to everyone.

And slowly but surely we kill ourselves as we kill the hello inside our kids.

Talking to strangers.

How did we become the strangers?

20070315093644_stranger_fog

I always walk the same way to the train station. I take the shortest route. I have too. Way too early to walk one meter further than I have to. Or one minute longer than what is needed. There is another route. Slightly longer. But all the time in the world if it is so bloody early in the morning. My normal route is an easy walk. Turn right, then a quick left and straight down to the station. A quick and easy 20 minute stroll.  And who said I don’t get enough exercise… But today I had to go the slightly longer route. Turn left, turn right and down the slightly longer walk to the station. Not by much. Just about 5 minutes added. But sometimes the longer route brings more than just a longer walk. And this morning I got more than I wanted. Another reason why I never like walking that route. A reminder. A memory.

My oldest daughter always does the “left turn” walk. Her friend from across the street walks with her to the bus stop. They pick up another friend along the way and off they go. But not this morning. The girl from across the road didn’t feel too well so she couldn’t walk with my daughter. Dad duties called. I am the backup. So off we went. On our left turn. 

We were joking as we walked. Doing our “home boy” walk down the street. Me doing funny walks and funny voices to show her how I was going to embarrass her in front of her friend who has never met me. Doing my typical dad stuff. We got to the house. I gave her a hug and a kiss and watched her walk to meet her friend. And off I went. Taking my right turn down the road. The slightly longer road.

I put my iPod on and was listening to A Fine Frenzy when I walked past the blue house. And it brought back memories of the little girl who lived there. The little girl in the blue house.

She was the first friend my oldest daughter made at her new school when we moved here. They were in the same class. Hung out together. I saw her often. At the school. Or at the park. Or just in the streets when we were walking. But she was always there when we took my daughter to school. Running to great her friend. She was scrawny just like my daughter. But she was a little bit too thin. A little bit too pale.

In summer she always had just a t-shirt on. And in winter. A very worn and tatty thin little jacket. And trust me. It gets damn cold over here in Boston in winter. I remember seeing her with her arms folded to try and keep some heat in that little body of hers. You could see she was cold. But that was all she had for winter.

Her mother was always well dresses. With the latest fashion. Clothes and accessories she bought at the mall. She looked well looked after. And warm. Not like her little girl. But we didn’t see her at school often. Or anywhere for that matter. She didn’t walk with her little girl that often.

And they stayed just down the road from the school. It looked like a pretty house from the outside. That blue house where the girl stayed.

I often took my girls to the park at the school. And we’ll see her there often. On her own. On the swings. And she’ll be so happy to see my daughters. She was always so good to my little one. Running up to her and giving her a hug and a kiss and playing with her. She was a nice little girl. That little girl from the blue house.

My daughter always told us about her friend. And how she shared her snacks at school with her because she never had snacks. So my wife put in a few extra snacks for two. Never mentioned it to the little girl. Didn’t want her to feel odd. My daughter just shared because that is how she is. It was her friend. No questions.

And one day she told us that the girl was so exited about going to visit her dad in Arkansas. Her parents were divorced. And she lived with her mother and boyfriend in the blue house. The boyfriend had a nice BMW convertible. Nice car. Pretty new. They obviously had some money. Just not always for the little girl. But she was excited. She was going to visit her dad.

And then we saw her during the holiday. When she was meant to be at her dad. It was the first time I really saw her sad. The smile wasn’t there. She spoke to my daughter in a low sad voice and I didn’t want to ask too many questions. Didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable. I just wanted her to be a little girl. Playing with her friend. And having fun the way 10-year old girls are meant to have fun. So I let them talk and watched as they started playing and giggling. And the smile started coming back. She was with her friend.

The odd thing was that apart from that day I always saw her smile. A big old child smile. I never heard her complain. Not in front of me in any case. She always looked happy. But you could see that there was something missing. You just had to look carefully.

I always hug and kiss my girls. No matter where we are. When we drop them off at school. When I say goodbye in the morning. When they go to sleep at night. Or just because we feel like a hug and a kiss. Which is often. No matter where we are. And this little girl saw this. Saw how I hugged my girls. And she wanted one too.

I used to see her looking at me and my daughter when we hug. And then one day she came up to me when I took my girl to her school and asked for a hug. She was a little bit shy about asking. But I just gave my girl a hug and she looked at me with her tatty top with the long sleeves and peeked at me. “Can I get a hug please?” “Of course!” I said. I gave her a big old hug. And she hugged back. Hugging maybe a little longer and harder than what I expected. Almost as if she didn’t get a lot of hugs and would like to get hugs more often. She was only ten.

And that was how it was. Whenever she saw me she would come running up to me and give me a hug. And I’ll hug her back. And I’ll give her a smile and ask how she was doing. It became a standard thing. I never really thought much about it. I knew she wanted a hug and I gave her one. We can do with more hugs in this world. And I didn’t think that she got too many hugs elsewhere in any case.

And then one day she was just gone. Just gone. Her mother packed their bags in the middle of the night and just disappeared. Gone. Not even a goodbye. Not even a last hug. Just gone with her tatty little top. We never knew what happened to her. How she is doing or how she is feeling. Is she with her dad? Is she okay? Is she happy? Is she being a kid? Did she get a warmer jacket? Is she still smiling those big old smiles of hers? Is she getting any hugs? Or is she still playing alone in the park?

Time passed and memories started fading. We’ll mention her every now and again and just wonder.

And then we started looking at buying a house. And one of the houses that was on the market was the blue house. The blue house where the little girl stayed. So off we went to look at the house. Thinking that maybe we can buy it and make it our little house. Until we opened the front door and walked in.

My wife and myself just looked at each other when we walked in. I knew what she was thinking. It was my thoughts to.

The house stank. It was dirty. So dirty. Everything was a mess. Stuff lying on the floor everywhere. Clothes. Plates. Old food. Ashtrays overflowing. Wet spots. I have never, ever seen anything like this anywhere. And I have been to some places… It has been like this for a long, long time. Our shoes got stuck on the sticky dirt that was on the floors. All the rooms were in a mess. You couldn’t even see what color the walls or carpets were. It was brown. From dirt and cigarette smoke. I felt nauseous. Sick. The ex-boyfriend was lying in bed downstairs watching something on a big screen television. On his hugewater bed. With plates and empty bottles and cigarettes lying all around him. A pig in a pigsty.

We went up the stairs to look at the real bedrooms. And we walked into the room that would have been that little girls room. It was a mess. Just a mess. No place for a little girl. Any little girl. Dirty. Filthy. Disgusting. You could see little things she must have tried to do to make it a little girl’s room. A little picture here and there. A ripped out poster. A wonky little table where she must have tried to study. Some girlie jewelery lying on the floor amongst the dirt that she must have forgotten to pack in the haste. But it was covered in a floor that ran skew. Holes in the floors and roof. And cold. And this was in winter. No heating. This was the room of the little girl with the big smile.

My wife and myself just looked at each other. We knew what each of us were thinking. We just wanted to get out. Just wanted to forget that we ever came. That we ever knew that little girl. And that she lived there. Her little room in the blue house.

We sat in the car and just stared at nothing for a while. And then she said it. “She lived in that house.” That’s all that needed to be said. We knew. The little girl in the blue house.

And walking past that house this morning reminded me of her. That little girl in the blue house. Made me think. Again. How did she do it? How did she manage? How did she remain a little girl in that house? How long can she be that girl with the big old kid smile? How long before she falls through the cracks? Is she strong enough? Where will she find the love she needs? The hugs she deserves? How is the little girl from the blue house doing?

The little girl from the blue house. I hope you remember me. I hope you remember those hugs. I just wish I hugged you a little harder and a little longer.

Some days are more difficult than others. The walk home from the train station feels like it will take forever. My legs get heavier and heavier with each step. It’s just one of those days. When it all gets a little bit too much. Some days I just feel older than the mountains. My soul feels drained. I am tired to my bones. I am going home. But all I want to do is get into bed and sleep. Curl up and switch off the lights. The light inside my head. But not everyone notice or care.

I haven’t even hit the first step to the porch yet when I hear it. “Daddy’s home!” It’s the little one. And she has been waiting for me to come home. But not tonight. Tonight daddy is tired. He needs time to switch off. Daddy doesn’t feel like much tonight.

I open the door and my oldest runs up and jumps into my arms. “Hello Dad!” Big kiss and a hug. The little one is patiently waiting for her turn. She is still to small to jump. But she tries. A little hobble and a bump and she almost hits my knees. I pick her up and give her a hug and a kiss. She gives me a big squeeze. “Hello daddy. I missed you.” I put her down and put my bag down. Go into the kitchen and kiss my wife. I am in robot mode. Doing what I do because I love them. They don’t have to suffer my tiredness.

The little one shouts, “Hey dad! We’re having goggas tonight. Ooh, I looove goggas”. Goggas is spaghetti bolognese. A family favorite. We call it goggas because of the spaghetti strings. Goggas is spider or bugs in my language. A bowl of spaghetti looks like spider legs. And she loves goggas. No, she loooves goggas.

I stand in the kitchen with my wife. Just listening to how her day was. Packing away the dishes and packing the dishwasher. Taking out the bowls and forks. My wife can see I am not myself. She knows this mood. When I feel as if I am away from my body. Staring at myself through a cloud. She’ll ask me what’s wrong. And I’ll just say, “Nothing”. Really nothing. I am just tired.

I hear her voice shouting from the lounge. The little one. “Dad! Come look here. I made you something!” I drag myself to the lounge. She jumps up with her big smile and bigger eyes. Sparkling. “Look dad. I made you a picture. See? It’s you and Mommy. And there’s a tree. And a princess. It’s me. And there’s another princess. My sister. And a cat. And some broccoli. I looove broccoli. I made it for you daddy.” She smiles and her eyes shines with happiness because she gave me a present. I put up my best smile. I say thank you for the pretty picture. I ask her to put it at my bag. I’ll take it later. I hardly looked at the picture. I smile at her and go back to the kitchen. No focus. No attention span.

We sit down and eat together. The four of us. I am quiet. My oldest one tells me of the book she is reading. I nod my head and flash a smile. The little one pipes up. “Hey dad! Knock, knock.” “Who’s there”. “Banana.” “Banana who?” “Banana is naked and crossing the road. Haaaaahaha.” I smile at her. She doesn’t get all the jokes yet. But she tries. And she finds them extremely funny. I am still in a daze. Everything clicks over so much slower in my mind when I am like this.

Dinner is done. The little one eats her desert while I clean up the kitchen. She is done. And she runs up and shouts, “Dad. Pick me up! Pick me up!” “Please girl. I am tired. I just want to do the kitchen. Just eat your ice-cream please.” “I’m done daddy. Pick me up. Pick me up! Let me touch the roof!” I sigh. “Oh girl, daddy is really tired. Just once okay.” I pick her up and lift her high up so she can touch the roof. She giggles. “Again! Again!” “No girl. Really. Dad’s tired.” “Just one more time please daddy. Let me touch the roof!” I sigh. “Oh girl.” I pick her up and lift her up sideways. She really has to stretch for this one. And she giggles and laughs. “I touched it daddy! I touched it. Thank you dad!” I give a half-hearted smile. “Well done girl.”

Time to get her in bed. “Come let’s go bath. Quickly girl. Daddy’s still got lots to do. Let’s move it.” “Carry me up dad! Carry me up.” I really don’t have the energy. “Please girl. Daddy’s tired. Can’t you just walk up the stairs?” “Please daddy. Carry me up?” I pick her up. She puts her arms around my neck and puts her head on my shoulder. I can see her smile from the corner of my eye. She whispers, “I love you daddy”. “I love you to girl. Daddy’s just tired okay? Let’s just get into the bath and get it done okay?” “Okay daddy.” She is still smiling.

But it isn’t okay. We get upstairs and I put her down. She runs around like a crazy thing. This little girl with the build-in nuclear energy reactor and the smile. She runs into her bigger sister’s room just to irritate her. She runs in and makes a silly face, wiggles her bums and runs out laughing. She runs into our bedroom and jumps on the bed. Off on the other side. Chase the cats. Runs into her room and runs out. “Come on girl. Please. Move it. Let’s get into the bath. I am tired. I still have lots to do. Please.” I am begging now. She gets on the toilet and makes a wee. I get her bath ready. I walk past her to go get her toothbrush. She grabs my legs with her short little legs. Trying to trip me. “Oh please girl.” She giggles and laughs. “I got you daddy.” This is turning into a long night.

She is done on the loo. She flushes and closes the lid. And then jumps on top of the lid. It’s next to the mirror. “Come daddy. Time for a photo.” “Oh please girl. Not tonight.” “Come daddy. Just one photo.” I lean forward and she leans over to me and grabs my shoulders – and on her tippy toes leans over to the mirror for the “photo”. She looks at me and says, “smile for the photo daddy”. I give a fake smile and she smiles with her teeth showing all over the place. “Cheese daddy.” It’s done. “Wait daddy. A funny one.” “You said only one girl.” “But we always do a funny one.” I am getting impatient. “Come on now.” She leans in again and pulls what she thinks is a funny face. I pull a funny face. She laughs as if it is the funniest thing she has ever seen. “Come girl. Let’s just brush your teeth.”

We brush her teeth. She sucks the toothpaste and plays with the water in her mouth when she gargles. She spits all over the basin. “Look at my clean teeth daddy.” She flashes me her teeth – pushing her whole face forward. “See how shiny they are daddy.” “Very pretty. Now come now girl. Let’s just bath.” Please.

She runs out the bath into our room and turns around. She faces the bathroom like an athlete ready to start the marathon. She runs screaming to the bathroom and when she gets to the edge of the bath she shouts “cannonball!”. And then stops and slowly gets in the bath on little foot after the other.

“More water dad. Make it deeper. More bubbles.” “Come girl. Please! Stop splashing. Just a quick bath tonight. Daddy really needs to get his work done and get into bed. Let’s just finish.” She ggiles and laughs when I wash her feet. “It’ so ticklish dad”, she says while laughing. She splashes around and throws all her toys in the bath. “Where’s my little duckie?” Crisis. “Find it daddy. His mommy and daddy is waiting for him and he is all alone.” I find the duckie and pull the plug at the same time. The water drains out like my energy.

Drying her and dressing her. Never easy. She smears water on my clothes with her wet hands to see what patterns she can make. “Pull my finger daddy.” Oh. I pull her finger and she makes a farting sound with her mouth. Haha. “Wasn’t that funny daddy?” “Put some cream on me daddy. My skin is itchy.” At last time to get her dressed. I slip on her pajamas and she starts giggling. “Don’t tickle me dad.” I know what she wants. She wants me to tickle her under her arms (kieliebakke) when she lifts her arms. She crashes to the floor when I just put one finger under her arm. “Oh dad. I told you not to tickle me.” She says this while lying on the floor laughing and saying “Oh, ooooooh” the whole time. Time for bed. She goes to sleep first and then I must hit the sack. I am knackered. My brain is starting to shut down.

“Wait daddy. I forgot my dodo bear”. “Oh, come on girl. Just get another toy to sleep with you okay?” “But it’s dodo bear daddy. He always sleeps with me.” She runs down stairs to get the bloody bear. I lie down on her bed and close my eyes. Oh please I hope she gets the bear and move it. I shout from the top, “Move it girl!” She runs up the stairs and into her room holding up dodo bear and shouting, “Got him dad!”

She struggles to get up her bed. It’s too high. And the she jumps off. “Oh, I almost forgot to put my baby Jack-jack in his bed.” I sigh. Just hang in there. It’s almost done. I am just going through the motions now. Trying to survive this whirlwind. Almost done.

She grabs a book. It’s Wally (Waldo in the US). She knows where Wally is hiding. She finds them all faster than me. It takes just a few minutes to read. Thank God. “Again dad. One more time!” She wants to do it again… And again… “One more time daddy.” Always a spark and a sparkle in her voice.

My tiredness has caught up and getting way ahead of me now. I am on edge of the abyss staring down. The floor is sucking me down.

“Okay girl. That’s enough. I’ll put on your Nemo CD and you go to sleep now. Okay? I don’t want to hear you again when I go downstairs. It’s time for bed now.”

I get up and press play on her CD player. I wait a split second to check if the volume is okay. It’s done. I get up and start walking out the door. At last. I can finish everything else and get into bed. I am not even going to blog tonight. There is just nothing left in the tank. I am on the edge. I have to go to sleep before I get too grumpy. Or rather grumpier. And then I hear my little ones voice. No sparkle this time. No happiness. Just a sad little voice coming softly from her bed.

“But daddy. What about my huggle* and kissy?”

I froze. It’s like Mike Tyson in his prime just hit me in my stomach. Like a sledgehammer. I winch. It sucks the wind out of my system. The blood drains from my whole boddy. The huggle. How can I forget the huggle?

All she wanted was a huggle and a kissy. All she is is happy about is seeing her dad. From when she gets up in the morning and misses me to when I get home. She phones in the morning to say hello and to tell me she loves me and misses me. She just doesn’t care about how tired I am. She doesn’t care that I had a tough day. Or that I feel drained. Or that I feel the weight on my shoulders today. She doesn’t care because she loves me. She doesn’t care because she has been waiting all day to see her daddy. And all she wanted was a huggle and a kissy.

I stood there for a minute. I could feel the tears coming. How could I do this to my little girl. She just wants her daddy. I turn around and pull my funniest face – mouth skew, tongue out, eyes wide – everything. And say in my stupidest and deepest monster voice, “A tuggle? What’s a tuggle? Is it like a tickle?”

Her eyes lights up immediately. And a huge smile spreads across her face. “No daddy! I said a huggle! Not a tickle!” I run over to her and gave her a tickle that goes on forever. She laughed from her stomach. Big breaths as she laughs her heart out. And then we quiet down and I look at her and say, “I love you so much my girlie”. “I love you too daddy.”

I give her a big huggle and a big kissy. No. A BIIIIIG huggle and a HUUUGE kissy. “One more daddy.” “And another one daddy.” And then she smiles at me and turns around to grab dodo bear. I leave the room with another “I love you girlie” and a “I love you daddy”. And another quick huggle and a kissy.

That’s my little girl. She doesn’t care because she loves me. All she wanted was her dad. And a huggle and kissy.

And as I walked down the stairs I made a little promise to myself. Never again will I chase her on to finish up. Never again will I give her a half-hearted smile. Never again will I tell her to hurry up. Never again will I tell her daddy just wants to go to sleep. Never again will I not smile for the photo. Never again will I feel too tired. Never again will I forget about the huggle and the kissy. Because she doesn’t care. And rightly so. She’s my little girlie.

___________________________

* Note: A huggle is a word she created. It’s a combination of a hug and a cuddle. A big hug. No, a huge hug. But with lots of love. A huggle.