The seagulls followed us home. I watch in the playground as they skid overhead yelping and flapping. Then they are gone. I wonder why they were here, where they are going.
My daughter slams into me and hugs my legs, her face pressed sideways and arms spread wide. I try to enjoy these moments. I know you must. But still time leaches through me. As I hug her in return I can feel it escaping between my arms.
I have a new feeling now, in the playground. I stand watching my daughter as she jumps up and down climbing frames, remembering the early faltering steps, the clutching at the handrail, the worried looks back. Then I would loiter nearby, ready to catch her if she fell, now I hardly need to pay attention.
My daughter sees me looking upwards and follows my gaze.
“Can birds touch the sky daddy?”
Her questions have become more tricky. She throws queries out and expects a neatly packaged response. It takes more knowledge than I have to do it properly. People write books on these sorts of things. I tell her something about air and wings.
“Oh.” she says, seriously. Then her little lop-sided smile returns. “Pretend I’m a fairy, daddy.”
I pretend and she whirls around the playground in her fairy world. A little girl about eighteen months old stands watching her in fascination, the way my daughter used to look at the older girls. My daughter skips around her, stops, smiles and moves on. When we leave the playground I say to her
“That little girl is the same age as you were when I started looking after you. What do you think about that?”
“Hmm” she says. “Can I have an ice cream?”