It was the way our girls pressed into you while you put up fences. They leaned on you, our strong man.
I missed it at first – all that tender, windblown love pressing into steady, certain love. I took two dozen photographs in the garden that day. But I only saw the real beauty later, after I uploaded the photos onto the computer. I spotted the two flowers standing next to you. You know the ones: those pink, blooming girls of ours.
They wait for you to drive up that country lane, kicking up a dusty welcome. They chase you like you’re the hero come home. Because to them, you are.
The girls are well-scrubbed, and lotion-scented. You smell like the barn. But they want to be near you anyway, Daddy. And you let them.
In the photograph, you are working with strong hands. I can see now that it was hard work, pounding fence posts into stubborn soil.
You could have shooed them off. But you let them stay close, and without words, your actions told them they’re valued and beautiful.
In the photograph, you’re putting up fences because you want to protect what we’re growing on this farm. There’s always something lurking in the shadows, wanting to devour what we grow.
Sometimes, the thief in the shadows consumes not with teeth, but with lies.
I fear that the thief has been whispering into the ear of our oldest daughter, age nine. She blooms on a slender stem. She’s the skinniest girl in her class, but she said last week that her legs are “chubby.” We looked at each other wide-eyed because we know where this can lead. I didn’t say it out loud right then, but I remember what the lies did to me back when I lost my coveted title as skinniest girl of the eleventh grade. At 100 pounds, I went on my first “diet.”
But you, good man? I hear you speak louder than the lies. I hear how you tell her she’s beautiful – sometimes with actions, but often with words. She needs both.
I remember when our oldest daughter’s hair kept breaking off three years ago. The doctors said there was nothing they could do. We cropped her hair above the ears, and she cried, and you told her how pretty she looked. We prayed, and her hair grew back, and you loved her with long hair, too. When she said her teeth were crooked, you told her how much you adored her smile.
And when she leans in close, you let her.
You can’t buy them beauty, like a pair of designer jeans or a salon pedicure. And you can’t leave it to me. I can tell them they’re pretty, but they need to hear it from you.
You’re a farmer. You plant seeds in soil and in hearts. And I know the roots go deeper in a well-tended garden, even if the fences don’t hold.
(thank you, dear Jennifer… please visit this beautiful writer at her online space, here)