I took a picture while running recently and I can’t stop staring at it. I get lost in it. My daughter’s ponytail caught mid-swing as she comfortably strides at her perfect pace. Our puppy chasing her, eager to catch up, mid-air, sprinting. Their shadows are crisply cast. The photo tells a story, not only of what’s happening but of things to come.
I’m not a photographer, by any stretch. I just snapped a bunch of shots with my phone, hoping to get something good. I tried to get my own shadow in the picture, because how cool would that have been? Couldn’t do it. Even if my shadow didn’t quite make the cut I know I’m there, just behind them, smiling like only someone who is completely aware of the moment can. Looking at the picture now, I know who they’re running with and it makes me smile all over again. It’s also making the outermost corner of my left eye slightly moister than usual. It doesn’t bring a tear to my eye or a lump in my throat; I’m not that big a sap. It just makes me sort of exhale a little louder, almost a sigh, but not quite.
Left on her own, our dog, Mallomar, could outpace my daughter and me with no problem, at least in relatively short distances. I could totally kick her puppy behind in a 10k! (Unless there was a squirrel pacing her.) It’s fun to hold Mallo back when we run with my daughter, Penny. All she wants to do is run alongside her girl, our girl. She practically pulls my arm off, her front and hind legs working in unison and straining against her leash and my shoulder socket. Finally I let her have at it. I have to go full 100-yard dash mode to keep up with her, bounding, practically bouncing, in an effort to catch up to Penny. (I say “effort,” but nothing could be easier for Mallomar.) She practically gets a foot in the face from Penny’s carefree kicking, but she doesn’t seem to mind. As soon as she catches up, she slows down. Everything slows down. I’m not normally one of those “Life is Good” bumper sticker people. But … Life. Is. Good.
All of that is captured in the photo. All of that and so much more.
I look at the picture and I already feel nostalgic, even though it’s from like a week ago. Who am I kidding? I felt the pangs of a moment gone forever the moment I took the photo. It was already in the past. But it also gave me a glimpse into the future.
I saw it all very clearly, as I blinked my eyes my baby girl was 17 years old. Ten years away. More time than she’s spent on the Earth thus far, but it happened, will happen, in an instant. I saw her heading off to college, but humoring me with one more run together before shipping out. I even joked a little bit about it that day.
When you do you think you’ll be faster than me? I asked, purposely goading her.
I’m already faster than you! She paused for dramatic effect . Because I cheat!
That’s why you’re Cheater Girl.
I’m Cheetah Girl, daddy. Chee-TAH.
That’s what I said, Cheater Girl. Chea-TER, right?
It’s only funny when she says it, so she tried give me a little jab. Too bad I’m too fast for her! For now. In 10 years, who knows?
I think running together is going to be our thing. I hope so. Like most runners, I have a love-hate relationship with the sport. It’s annoying, frustrating and brings me so much pain. Kind of like Penny. But it has also afforded me some of my proudest, most cherished moments. And there is almost nothing in the world that makes me smile more. Exactly like Penny. (And her little brother, Simon, but he’s not running yet. Yet.)
A version of this first ran on Amateur Idiot/Professional Dad.