We're at the playground on one of the first nice days we've had in what seems like forever, shaking off the fever, both cabin and viral, and slathering sunscreen. The bigger kids are playing make believe by the swings and climbing like monkeys on the aptly named bars. They're sliding down slides warmed by the sun and running through the slightly damp sandbox as fast as their coltish legs will carry them, golden locks trailing behind. CC looks on with longing, not quite satisfied with the mulch she's playing with, too small to run after her big sister. Too small to do pretty much anything within the confines of the fenced area. She doesn't like the feel of the sand on her bare legs today or the taste of it after she absentmindedly chews on a green plastic shovel, so she's crawled over to a shady spot under a tree where we sit and watch the glory unfold together. A small sigh escapes from her pink bow lips.
The distance between the table leg and the drawer her sister is digging through is only about four feet but may as well be a mile. She holds on to the leg with one hand, the other willing the plastic containers and odd lid into her chubby fist, each colorful bowl like the Holy Grail. She lets go and takes one step, then two, then down on her diapered rump she falls. Instead of crawling to the drawer she crawls back to the table leg and tries again. This time she only makes one step before plopping down on the floor. Then again. And again. The most she manages is four steps before she gives up. Her sister, in a rare moment of kindness, brings her a purple rubber lid and a wooden spoon.
She's getting the hang of this walking thing - Step, step, step, thump. Step, step, step, thump. She doesn't give up, she doesn't stay down - Step, step, step, thump. Step, step, step, thump.
I cheer quietly from behind her.
From twenty feet away they spot me in the crowded airport and she tries in vain to wiggle free from her father's arms. He puts her down on the industrial carpet and through a sea of people busy rushing here and there she walks toward me, small arms waving wildly over her head like an orangutan, a big smile on her face because she knows she's accomplishing something amazing. It's hard not to notice the amused looks on the people's faces around us, the appreciative stares from older parents and the childless alike, but my eyes are on her while my heart threatens to burst with pride. I throw my arms wide to catch her as she propels toward me. I can barely keep the happy tears from pouring from my eyes. She is a wonder; a perfect, tiny human being with the zeal and moxie of someone ten times her size. She is ready to take on the world. She couldn't be more pleased with herself. I couldn't love her more if I tried.