She was about 18 months old, but for some reason her folks decided to bring her to church with them rather than leave her in the church nursery. The sermon had been longer than usual and she was getting more and more restless as the sermon continued.
She stood up on the pew and peered over the back of the seat. A little pink ribbon taped to her head seemed to say, “I’m a girl.”
She looked across the back of the pew at my Dad and grinned. I couldn’t see his face, but I am certain he grinned back.
Soon she sat down again. She tugged at one shoe until it came off. She picked up her stuffed bear and waved it in the air. Then she stuck his ear in her mouth to free her hands so she could remove the other shoe.
Her mother quietly moved the shoes putting them out of the way so that little Miss Blue Eyes would not kick them onto the floor. Her Mom appeared to be getting worried that she would disrupt someone or she would cry. She crawled in her Mom’s lap for a minute and then quickly stood up on the bench again.
She stood there with the bear hanging out of her mouth until she grinned and it fell on the floor.
My Dad quietly reached down, picked up the bear and handed it back to her.
She just stood there staring at Dad, hanging onto the bear as she leaned as far over the bench as she could without falling on her head. Suddenly she dropped the bear on the bench and stretched her arms out as if she were waiting for someone to pick her up.
I should have been listening to the sermon, but I couldn’t quit watching the exchange between this little girl and my Dad.
Her Daddy finally tugged on her dress to get her to sit down. She turned around, sat on his lap for all of 20 seconds and once again stood up and started staring over the back of the bench.
Her Daddy once again tried to get her to turn around and sit down. She sat down long enough to remove her socks. Then she popped up again and started to stare at my Dad. I am sure my Dad was smiling at her. She grinned back at him.
I bowed my head for closing prayer as the sermon ended.
I couldn’t see what happened but I heard her laugh.
As I opened my eyes I could see my Dad once again picking up her little bear.
He handed it back to her. She grinned. Dropped the bear on the floor and laughed again.
Dad of course just kept picking up that bear and handing it back to her.
As we rose for the final hymn, she turned around and pushed the bear at her Mommy. Again she turned and peeked over the top of the pew. This time she played hide and seek for a minute, bringing her eyes just above the back of the pew so she could see my Dad and then lowering them just enough that her eyes were hidden from him.
Then all at once she put her arms out and tugged on his sleeve. He just smiled at her until she raised her arms as high as she could and leaned toward him. I saw her Mommy turn and acknowledge my Dad as if to say, “Okay, go ahead!”
He carefully lifted her over the back of the bench and held her until the end of the service.
She was like many toddlers. There was something about my Dad that drew them to him. I never saw a toddler shy away from him. I still can’t figure out what it was that little kids found so appealing. Maybe it was just because my Dad truly loved little children and they could tell.