Dad writes a letter to his 9-year-old daughter, encouraging her to pursue the joys and opportunities of life and to always “cherish the moments.”
By Patrick Hempfing
I’m a fan of Lee Ann Womack’s song, “I Hope You Dance,” which beautifully expresses parents’ desires for their children to live life to the fullest. When I think about my life, many of the things I most regret are not things I did, but the times I did nothing. I wish, for example, I had gone out for my high school’s basketball team. Maybe I would have been a bench warmer, but I also might have scored a winning basket or grabbed a key rebound. At minimum, I would have been a good teammate.
Though shy in school, I should have mustered up enough nerve to ask a girl to my high school prom. In fact, there were a number of girls I wish I had asked out during my teenage years. What’s the worst thing a girl could have said? “No.” However, she might also have said, “Yes, I’d love to go out with a tall, handsome, smart, sweet, sensitive, funny guy like you. But I never asked, and my shoes never scuffed the dance floor.
Jessie, my nine-year-old daughter, loves to dance. She takes ballet lessons once a week, but her dancing doesn’t stop when she leaves the studio. She’s twirling all the time, from the kitchen to the bathroom, from the living room to the bedroom, and even across the school parking lot. If there’s space for a spin, my girl will be twirling (or doing a cartwheel). This is usually not a bad thing; the key word here is “usually.”
One evening, my family was enjoying strawberry shortcake in the living room. Jessie asked if she could have another small piece. As she rushed to the kitchen holding her glass plate filled with strawberry juice, I said, “Don’t run.” A few seconds later, I heard the noise I had hoped to avoid.
By the time I made it to the kitchen, Jessie had already retrieved the dust pan and broom to begin cleanup. I assessed the damage. Pieces of broken glass had flown everywhere. Somehow, glass had landed even in the living room and dining room. As Jessie and I cleaned up, my sneakers sticking to the juice-covered floor with each step, I noticed strawberry juice on the side and front of the refrigerator. Red liquid dripped down the refrigerator from my shoulder level (not good since I’m 6’5”). The juice had splattered all over the kitchen countertop and speckled the items on it, a loaf of bread, a camera, my wallet, and a recently purchased music CD. I paused before looking up at the ceiling, afraid of what I might see. Thankfully, the ceiling remained strawberry-free.
I needed an explanation, as I couldn’t figure out how a single, dropped plate of strawberry juice could have covered half our house. Jessie sheepishly admitted that as she came into the kitchen, she did one, only one, twirl. Unfortunately, during her spin the glass plate smashed into the side of the refrigerator, and, well, the rest is sugary-juice and broken-glass history. As I painstakingly mopped the floor, worried that I might miss a small shard of glass that could stick in someone’s foot, I can’t say I “cherished the moment.” After a well-earned night of sleep, though, I thought, “Isn’t it great that Jessie spins with happiness?”
One day, Jessie and I will talk about this story and laugh. In the meantime, Jessie, I hope you always twirl… just not when you’re holding a juice-filled glass plate, or knives, or cartons of eggs (our dog, Sadie, would probably appreciate it if you’d stop twirling with her, too). But I especially wish that your life overflows with wonderful experiences as you twirl through it.
Oh, one more piece of advice for when you’re older. When a boy musters up enough courage to ask you out on a date, feel free to say “No,” but do it nicely.
Patrick Hempfing had a 20-year professional career in banking, accounting, and auditing before he became a father at age 44. He is now a full-time husband, stay-at-home dad and writer.