The small boy watches his dad on the makeshift stage, tucked in a sprawling backyard that backs to the coastal mountains of San Diego. A toy guitar is slung by a string around his neck, and he’s bouncing up and down, up and down, up and down, mimicking his father.
This song is the toddler’s favorite, and all the musicians are facing the kid, performing only for him.
I turn to my friend and say
A single moment like this can make a childhood.
To which my friend says
No, a childhood is made of a culmination of many, many moments, too many to count.
My mind floats back to 2nd grade, when I was quiet and not particularly special, like the more popular kids in class. One fall day just before lunch, I was called to the principal’s office. I walked the hall, wracking my recent history to find what I could possibly be in trouble for, until I saw my dad waiting outside the building. He waved me over and told me he’d taken time off work to pick me up for lunch.
He ordered me a plain cheeseburger at the Jack In The Box drive-through, and we headed to the Long Beach Jetty, where we sat on the rocks and threw pieces of bun to the seagulls.
My dad walked me back into class as everybody was taking their seats after their normal lunch and recess. I strode down the aisle to my seat, a warrior returning from a victory that no one else could know.
I shake my head. I don’t have kids. My friend has three. I want to tell him he’s wrong, that we carry certain moments with us, to draw light from in darker times, that my dad gave me one of those moments to me, like this dad is giving to his little son.
But I smile, and stare in gratitude at the boy in front of me, bobbing and weaving and dancing in mirror to his father, who is playing his son’s favorite song, only for him.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.