She was four at the time, full of energy and excitement about the world around her. She was at my side constantly, often asking questions well beyond her years. At times, her insights made me forget how young she was and often caused me to have unreasonable expectations of her abilities.
Of all my children, she is the one who has inherited the more complete package of my traits. Her inquisitive nature, quick wit, vivid imagination, and impulsive leanings are a near match for mine, and something I began to notice when she was four. I knew then these were also the traits that would cause conflict between us later in life.
We were living in northern Florida at the time, and the summer heat had finally retreated for another year, giving way to pleasant fall evenings perfect for leisurely strolls through the neighborhood. Our house was in an older part of the city, and our street wound its way by the St. Johns River. There were places along the circle where friendly neighbors living on the river opened their docks for fishing or quiet evenings of watching the Manatee at play.
She loved to walk with me around the neighborhood. It gave us a chance to talk about things that were on her mind, but mostly I think it was so that she could have some private time with me. She didn’t like the idea of her older sister or baby brother joining us on these walks. She saw this as our time and practically broke down in tears when others wanted to tag along.
With dinner out of the way and dusk coming one evening, I called to her from the kitchen to ask if she wanted to join me on a quick trip around the circle. She came running from the family room, sliding across the kitchen floor in socks and stopping just before me.
“Yes! Let me go put on my super-fast shoes,” she said.
Super-fast shoes? What are super-fast shoes, I thought as she raced to her bedroom. In less than a minute she was back at my side wearing a new pair of Nike® sneakers my mom had given her and that ever-present Barney® cap, worn backward. She looked up at me and smiled.
“See this thing on the side of my shoes, dad? That means these shoes are super fast,” she explained.
She grabbed my hand and pulled me to through kitchen door. She raced down the driveway, and when I caught up, we began our walk. In her super-fast shoes, she would run ahead for a while to explore, then run back to grab my hand and ask me questions, or to bring me things she had discovered a few feet away, or to tell me where she would like to go next as we moved around the circle.
Super-fast shoes have taken her many places as she has grown up. I know there are times when those shoes took her faster than she was ready to go, but she still managed to figure out how to make the speed of travel work to her advantage in the long run. She still does. She makes great memories, and she doesn’t seem to live too much of her life in the blur that I thought those shoes would create.
Since she put on that first pair of super-fast shoes, she’s been moving much faster than I would like to see her go through life. Even so, with each new adventure and no matter how far she runs out in front of me, she always comes back to share her world and brings with it the same wide-eyed excitement she had at four.