I am in the playground with my daughter. I stand watching while she climbs up the rope structure to the top before standing in the crow’s nest waving. Shielding my eyes against the sun I wave back with my other hand. Very good I mouth. I’m impressed. It’s a long way up and I know I’d be feeling a little sick up there and worrying about the journey back down.
Journeys are like that; they can seem more frightening in advance than they end up being. I think of all the playgrounds I’ve watched my daughter play in; all the different versions of her. The toddler; the schoolgirl; and now the confident seven-year old with a lop-sided smile which can make me gulp. I’d never have been able to imagine it all that time ago. It would have seemed an impossibly long way away.
My daughter nimbly climbs down and we walk home through the park, past a field where a hot-air balloon is taking off. We watch hand-in-hand in silence as the blower sends rasping gusts of hot air into the mouth of the canopy and it quivers and taughtens. When it is ready to leave, the ropes are released and the smiling customers rise slowly into the sky, waving, at whom I don’t know. We wave back until their faces are no longer visible. Until we’re waving at nothing.
My daughter’s very excited and bounces up and down, saying how much she’d like to go for a balloon ride. I tell her I’m not so sure; it’s a long way up. ‘Ohhh,’ she says and I have that feeling that I’ve let her down. Like I do in those moments when she’s sad, just before she goes to sleep, when things can seem dark and difficult and she misses the people she loves.
The moment of disappointment over, she grasps my hand and we head for home.