I had a perfect day on Friday. Perfect Days are quite rare - the last I remember having one was November 15th, 2013, two days into our honeymoon in Phuket (I'd spent the morning feeding monkeys, the afternoon eating Pad Thai, and the evening making olympic love).
Friday morning I wake up too early... my body does that when it's worried about missing an appointment; I will wake up 3 or 4 times, an hour or so before my alarm goes off, each time with the sinking feeling that you get when your alarm has failed. This doesn't sound like a Perfect Day, but it is... due to the Cymbalta I have not felt any anxiety for years and years, so this anticipation is like a warm gush of something to a cold a place. By 8:30 I cannot go back to sleep and we are not scheduled to leave until 9:30, so I sit up, turn on my tablet and do some email. When no one is awake by 9:30, I start to panic a little, and wander into the kitchen to make loud pancakes.
Zoey sneaks up behind me in her red dress with white trim (she calls it her "Christmas dress" even though it was given to her for Easter) and announces, "Good morning, Gavin Caaasselltaaan!"
[This has been going on for two weeks. Sarah thinks it is because she likes the way our last name feels phonetically, but I insist that it is a phase she's going through in which she calls me by my full name in order to assert herself as an equal individual and undermine my authority.] On this Friday morning, with my face full of Pancake Surprise, I am simply too smitten with her to take issue with it.
Zoey has packed a tiny towel, the tiny bikini (yes, Sarah and I fought for an hour over that purchase), several plastic shovels and buckets, and the always necessary Nameless Pink Pony into her Monchichi bag. She is determined to leave for the beach without eating breakfast. We do our Robot Negotiation:
"Robot, " I say, "have you charged your cells?"
"YES," says Zoey in a very mono tone, "ROBOT HAS BEEN CHARGING ALL NIGHT."
"But Robot, your room only provides Lithium charging... what about your potassium, calcium, iron, carbohydrate, and sodium cells? Have they been charged?"
[This is my favorite part - I've taught her that computers can never lie or miscalculate, that any error in technology is human-bourne. So, rather than lie, she feigns malfunction.]
"DOES NOT COMPUTE. DOES NOT COMPUTE."
"Rooooobot [in a patronizing tone]... you will need an ample supply of Carbohydrate fuel if you want to maintain equilibrium at the beach today."
A long hesitation, and then she marches stiffly to the table.
"QUICKLY. QUICKLY THEN."
She has prodigy wit, myZo.
One hour later at the pier she tip-toes out onto the sand as if it is the surface of Mars. I stare until Sarah looks at me crooked. Every time I see her do something new, I fall in love with her all over again. It is the most exasperating part of child-rearing. I worry that her tiny feet will burn but thankfully the sun is not too large yet and the sand is still somewhat cool. I race her to the water. I take a huge dramatic fall just before I get there so that she can win and also so that she will put her concerned face close to mine and call me "Daddy" again.
For the next hour we play Blast Off, a game we invented in which she counts down the seconds until a big wave crashes into us and I swing her by her bird-bone wrists up and over it and then around and around until the wave has subsided. Then I beg her to put her feet down and stand up (which she subsequently refuses to do over and over, assuming the lotus position mid-air until I dip her little butt in the surf). I tell her that we are approaching reentry and she has to land in order to prep for the next launch, but truthfully I just want to rest my aching shoulders before the next wave hits. I wonder what they look like from where Sarah is sitting. Does she see the youth in them, flexed and dependable for our flying daughter? Does she realize how strong I am? Is she even watching or is she just worried about how the sunblock is interacting with her mascara?
Thankfully Zoey decides to chase seagulls for a while and I'm able to lay down near Sarah's feet. I try to ignore what the sand is doing in my shorts. Zoey is always in my peripheral.
"We made that," I say, pointing to the monster.
"Yes," she answers sun-dazed.
"She is her own planet," I say, shading my eyes.
"She is her own galaxy," she corrects.
I try to build a sand castle for Zoey, but she pours so much water on it that instead of fortifying my towers, she just melts them. I am somewhat relieved because I don't believe I've ever made one and the exotic and massive palace I saw in my head was not manifesting itself through my soft hands.
She buries Sarah's feet, then mine. Then we both bury her up to her neck, and make her into a mermaid.
As I drag the sand over her she giggles, cackles and eventually her heaving buddha-belly upsets the smooth scaly surface that we've sculpted. We take pictures and then watch while she breaks out of it with a roar.
By three she is near collapse; everything sets her off. She develops an exaggerated fear of seaweed. The sun is too bright. The water is too cold. The sand is too sandy. Sarah strips her completely naked and sticks her under the public shower.
She wails like the puppy we won't let her have. The way she's standing, a pitiful pile of a child clinging to her naked ribs as if the water were below freezing, makes me think of the Holocaust. I turn away. I turn away and try to shield her with my growing gut so that child molesters won't see her private parts. I turn away so that no one will think I'm a child molester. Sarah's response to the fit is a well-honed verbal marriage of scolding, down-playing, humoring, and coddling. I am in love with her again because of the spell she has cast over our daughter.
The episode ends with my little Zoey swaddled in a towel
whimpering into my neck while I rattle her bird bones
turning her legato into vibrato,
to the tune of The Eagles' Desperado,
"Tiny Robot, why don't you come to your senses?
You've been out building castles
but your hard drive has crashed"