To be loved unconditionally. A gift that no one can ever take away from you.
The man whom I called “little father” was taken from me just as I stepped from childhood into my teens. I miss him so. Yet his boundless, generous love is mine still, many years after I could sprint down the stairs to greet him at the end of a hard’s day work, to be enveloped in the warmth of his arms, my cheek grazed by the familiar stubble as I reached in for a kiss. His hands smelt of fresh-cut grass… the scent of the earth in his hair.
He taught me to delight in the simplest of pleasures: a loaf of bread fresh out the wood-burning bowls of a clay furnace, the feel of the grassland against my bare feet, the smell of mushrooms picked in the woodlands, the white froth atop the mug of milk that was mine every morning. Summers turned into autumns under the mellow sun of my childhood, winds caressed my hopeful imaginings, rains cooled my fears and everywhere was peace and contentment.
I grew up at his side, a free wild thing with boyish ways, a pixy spirit. There were treasured mornings when he would bundle me up onto the back of his horse at dawn and we would take to the fields.
I remember standing in the middle of a field peppered by the early buds of spring, breathing in deep the silence and making a wish that I would never forget that moment. Perhaps I intuited that memory is untrustworthy, that time can steal what it had once gifted freely. Perchance I foresaw a day in the far distant future – for the future is always at a distance to a child’s heart – when I would need to come back to that moment of stolen bliss.