“Daddy, daddy!” the little girl called. Her little legs took her across the marbled-covered living room floor. Her feet slapped against the floor as she waddled, she was only a couple feet high, having taken her first breath only 18 months before. “Daddy!” she called. Her mother smiled and knelt close to the little girl, “that’s not daddy, his name is Yossi.”
The mother and daughter had just moved into the condominium complex a couple of months before, the little girl did not have a father, but somewhere, amongst TV shows and the greater collective unconscious, she had quickly learned about daddies. The middle aged couple from across the street, Meg and Yossi, had invited them to spend the afternoon and the mother and young daughter were guests for a Sunday barbecue. It was a sunny day, the sun being the reason the older couple had moved from Boston to this southern California town, a town they always said resembled New England, with its mature trees and charming downtown. They had come here twenty-three years ago, bringing with them their two young daughters.
“Yossi, Yossi! Look at me! Look at me do this!”
The man looked over and smiled. He was a short, stout man with olive skin and a barely-there white beard that he refused to completely shave. His legs and arms were slender and muscular, but his belly was full and round and extended from his white polo shirt no matter how much he exercised in the evenings after work.
There were different impulses moving through him, happiness and annoyance, tenderness and humor, they were all moving because of the little girl. There were five other adults in the house: Meg, the little girl’s mother, a man named Vince (Meg’s friend, and Marylyn and Ruth (another mother and daughter, but aged 55 and 84). The little girl called to none of them.
“Yossi! Watch me do this!”
He was not used to this, his own wife did not talk to him this much. He was not used to such overpowering innocence, such unobstructed attention and unashamed requests for love. His own daughters were grown, they had moved out of the house years ago and he and his wife had created a new home, a place of sophisticated style and marble and hard edges. It was clean and uncluttered, it was obvious that children had not lived there for many years. The only trace of his daughters was on the cluttered piano, an instrument not used for music any longer, but a place for a multi-leveled arrangement of picture frames that held the images of the two daughters: first as little girls playing with dolls, then as teenagers in pretty dresses, and then as young women. Long ago he had held them, protected and comforted them. But it had been many years. They had stopped turning to him so long ago, even before they left his home. They were his blood, but they were all strangers. Once, he lived with little girls that wanted to sit close to him and be picked up, but it had been so long. Now, he preferred a clean, quiet house. A home without dog hair, without anything that required much of his time or attention or worry. Now, here was this little thing, this little girl, barely two feet tall, who called to him constantly. Whether he was outside tending the barbecue meat, whether he was in the kitchen or sitting on the couch, the little girl kept calling his name, she kept running to his legs and hugging him. He smiled, slightly embarrassed by the love.
There were no toys for the little girl, but she wandered around the small downstairs and found the extra room. The door was open and she walked onto the plush gray carpet. There were a couple of piles of paper on the floor next to the couch and there was a mesh bag full of neon green tennis balls. She went back to the living room, carrying her find. Like nothing was ever more interesting, she pulled out the balls one by one.
“Yossi, look at me do this…” and with her little arm, she threw a tennis ball across the room and then ran to retrieve it. She ran back to him, a smile of achievement on her face as she hugged his legs.
“Watch me do this…” she threw another tennis ball and went after it. The adults sitting in the living room smiled while a barbecue smoked on the back patio.
“That’s good,” he said. He smiled, laughed a little, liking the attention, and at the same time a little unsure of how to react. He had forgotten people could love so openly. The little girl ran back to him and raised her hands, “Can I sit on your lap?”
The hamburgers were ready. He picked her up and sat down, he gave her some small pieces of meat and he held her while she ate.