Winter Games

As I sit in my reading chair listening to Antoine Dufour, I watch Izzy staring at a board game she got for Christmas, Hedbanz, and I am struck — as she often strikes me — by her innate curiosity; and her innocence. Every child bears these hallmarks. But she is my child. And I forget. I forget she is mine, a product of my own self and personality. I gaze upon her, this 7-year-old mirror of my own heart, and I see myself at her age.

The mere act of watching a child stare at the face of an unopened, shrink-wrapped board game reminds me how easy it is to look at life — yes, even at material objects — with joy and fascination. Holding the giant box before her, she thoughtfully imagines herself inside the game. She admires the artful illustration of the three saucer-eyed children, joyful in their expression, one with hands held high in multi-player-game ecstasy. And Izzy is happy too.

She is in the moment. And happy. And all my fears of losing touch with her, and who she is, fade away.

When I picked her up last night, Izzy was sleeping. The backseat is crammed full with blankets. Tired and disoriented after the 70-mile trek, she appears quite miserable. “I wanna stay with Mommy…” And as the tears well up in her eyes, I take her resistance as apathy. Perhaps she doesn’t love me, I think. She clearly doesn’t miss me. What did I do? I climb into the back seat, close the door from the bitter cold and gather her up in my arms. “Daddy has some fun things planned for us,” I say. I proceed to embellish upon the ideas I had tossed around, including breaking out her board games from Santa. Slowly, through my talking to her, and through touch — to which all children nurtured by love will respond — Izzy calms down and begins to speak. Her face returns to a composite of the curious and engaged seven-year-old I remember. She is happy again. And so am I.

We spend most of that frigid weekend indoors. Games are played. Chicken soup is eaten, the lima beans carefully avoided. Late morning sun bursts in through the windows. Daddy and daughter are together, and the world outside — cold and unforgiving this January — remains contained.

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