I sit next to her, eating a salad. A nothing special salad. It has croutons, red onions, a couple of slices of tomatoes and ranch dressing. She picks out the croutons as I eat. She barely avoids my stabbing fork and picks up an onion ring delicately between her finger and thumb and eyeballs it. She sees a sliver of it on my fork just as I pop in it in my mouth. “Yummy!” I tell her. She takes a bite, chews, and grimaces. She removes the offending vegetable from her mouth and flicks it onto the table. I shrug my shoulders at her. She’ll taste about anything so I can’t complain.
She picks up the tomato slice and eats it like a mini-watermelon, taking bites out of the fruit and leaving the rind abandoned on her plate. “Big bite!” she demands. I load up some smaller pieces of lettuce onto my fork and present it to her. “No. Biiiig bite!!” I return the fork to my salad and spear one more piece of lettuce that’s bigger than the others. Aitch deems it presentable and chomps on the fork and chews it up.
I also take another bite and turn to smile at her, enjoying the interaction. She looks at me and I see her eyes move to my mouth as it chews. She reaches for her napkin, always present, on the table and then carefully wipes what must have been a little ranch dressing from the corner of my mouth. As she does so, her eyes shift from my mouth to my eyes and gives me a big smile of accomplishment and she puts down the napkin, satisfied that my face is respectable again.
And in that moment, I realized she someday will probably have a child of her own (at least I truly hope she will), and I pray I am there for that moment when she wipes the face of her child gently, efficiently, with a small smile on her lips and love in her eyes. And in that following moment, a tear escapes from my eye but I brush it quickly away so that no one will see.