It was an easy day, as only afternoons in June could be, the world basking in clear, gentle sunlight, summer arriving softly, lazily, the days already more alive with their new-found warmth.
“I want a Rododondron!”
Nina was standing up to her tiny, full height in front of her father, Charles, and pointing out to him the pale red flowers, whose printed name she had just repeated, clumsily but with confidence.
“Won’t you be sad when they wilt?”
“It’s when flowers have a rest and lose their colors.”
With her cheeks burning delicately from a great effort of intense thought, Nina brushed a petal with the tip of her finger.
“How do you know it’s awake? It doesn’t look as if it’s moving.”
“Flowers and plants don’t speak with words, they don’t move about like we do. Everything happens inside them, you never hear them.”
Nina appeared satisfied by this explanation from her father and she picked up the pot, which was on sale, bearing its neon cardboard label, and held it out towards the shopping cart. Charles was unable to say no to Nina. She was by far the best thing that had ever come in to his life. She looked at things in a simple way, and for the moment she enjoyed being with him as much as he did with her.
Yet he hadn't exactly greeted the news of her forthcoming arrival with equal love and happiness. He had imagined that with her birth, his life would run away like water down the sink, that he would no longer have any time for himself, just by himself. He was afraid of change and of this new reality which was winding its chaotic way into the intimacy of his heart, his head, and his being, so insignificant in the scale of human history. This last thought of his own smallness compared to the "great whole" had opened a hidden door for him in his mind: why would he be the first in his line of descent not to continue the transmission begun even before his name had come into being? And the answer to this question had appeared in a part of his heart whose existence he had never suspected, followed by a joy, and more than joy, a certainty, an epiphany.
“It would be nice to go to the fair tonight after Mommy’s done her hairy legs.”
“That would be a great thing to do, yes. But don’t talk to Mommy about her hairy legs.”
“Will I have hairy legs when I grow up too?”
“Everybody gets them eventually.”
“If everybody has them, why can’t you talk about them?”
“You don’t talk about other people’s hairy legs.”
On the way home in the car, after putting the groceries in the trunk – and after buying, as well as what was on the list, "rododondrons," chocolate icecream, toilet paper with a jungle animal print, and streamers – the sun was in front of them, showing its first signs of setting and turning to orange.
Nina was pouting with concentration, only the slight frown of her eyebrows revealing the thoughts racing in her brain. She kept quiet and observed the fading of the day, the dance of changing colors reflecting every age onto her face. Charles kept his attention on his driving but didn't miss one bit of his child’s silent agitation, not knowing when he should break the thread of her thoughts. Suddenly Nina whispered, “The sun, it’s like the flowers. It loses its colors when it goes for a rest and you can’t see it moving.”
Charles didn't say a word. And as the day continued its daily disappearing act, Charles and Nina drove on towards their home. The earth was turning, and the vehicle drove on, drove with their two hearts in unison, towards a place they shared.
“I love you.”
“Me too, sweetie.”
“Daddy, what does ‘I love you’ really mean?”
“Today it means driving with you towards the sun.”
Translated by Wendy Cross