I find my hand always seeking hers subconsciously. I notice how small her hand is. How small she is. I notice how young and innocent she is. How beautiful and fragile and alive and accepting and unassuming and embracive she is. You have to love Heidi: Her person, her smile, her sweet baby voice.
We are heading home from school. After the hugs, the hi’s and the how-are-you’s my hand will always find hers before we can start walking. Hailey will hold my hand and let go after awhile to run ahead or drag behind. But Heidi’s hand always stays in mine.
We walk, holding hands and random conversations like;
How was school?
Do you have homework today?
Language and counting
Did anything interesting happen today at school?
Rally pushed me (She cannot say Larry to save her life!)
Why did Larry push you?
I don’t know. He likes disturbing me
I will talk to your teacher about him.
What else happened today?
We saw a tortoise!
A tortoise?! Where did it come from!?
I don’t know.
When did you see it?
Break time and lunch time.
Was it there now, when you were leaving the school compound?
No. It had been taken away.
And it was big. It looked like a stone.
And it was moving slowly then it stopped!
Then it hid inside its shell.
Did you touch it?
Noooo! Others were touching it but I was afraid to touch it.
You shouldn’t be afraid of a tortoise. It is harmless.
What if I touched it and it bit me?
Did it bite any of the students who touched it?
It doesn’t bite even kidogo?
Even my fingers?
Even my leg?
Even my eyes and my nose?
No, no, no.
I will touch it tomorrow
Will it be there tomorrow?
I don’t know.
If I touch it, will it bite me?
It won’t bite you.
In the course of our journey, I have helped her sidestep a few stones that had the potential of tripping her small feet. I have steered her away from a slippery path that might have caused her to tumble and fall flat on her face. I have pulled her away from the road to avoid an oncoming vehicle.
I have caressed the back of her hand assuredly as she narrates Rally’s nuisances. I have made promises that I intend to keep. Spoken words to her that I hope will stay with her for a long time. I have walked with her, talked to her, listened to her and remained silent with her. Because the silent moments are just as important as the wordy moments.
I have managed to convince her that tortoises do not bite and that she should not be afraid to try something she has never tried before, like touching a motionless, harmless tortoise.
To hold my daughter’s hand is to guide her small steps until they become sure, decisive and intentional.
To hold her hand is to use that tiny hand to steady my sometimes shaky steps. To use the same hand to find (and keep) my focus. To let those small feet steer me back to the right path when I stray.
To listen to that sweet voice. To allow it to calm my fears. Give clarity. Propel me to greater heights.
To hold that hand is to know what I need to do and where I need to go. To feel that soft, fragile hand in mine – I want that.
Because everything is made clear when my daughters’ hands are in mine.
Illustration by Elsardt Kigen. Elsardt is a talented artist and a senior student of The Arts and Design at The University of Nairobi. He has won several Art Competitions including ‘Experiencing Kenyan Heritage Through Art’ (2013) where he was accorded a visit to the UK.