We walked through the empty sands during a cold morning on the first day of the New Year.  My daughter and I were alone and the sun was bright. The tide was on its way in and the waves curled into the shore, crashing and echoing into the surf and then tumbling over the broken clam shells before returning them to the ocean.

I held onto her hand, which was halfthe size of mine, and together, we walked over to the rock piles that stretched out into the Jones Beach Inlet.
She asked, “Is this the beach you used to come to with your Daddy?” “Yes it is,” I told her. Then I explained how The Old Man and I used to collect clam shells. We collected fishhooks that washed into shore and we counted the dead seagulls that sometimes lay on the beach. And almost every year, we found a horseshoe crab. And every year, I made sure to place my foot in one of The Old Man’s footsteps. I felt as if that meant something

I suppose my hand in The Old Man’s was as small as my little girl’s hand in mine. I suppose I asked as many questions as she did. But on days like this, I don’t think my Father minded so much. I know this because I didn’t mind when she asked me.

We walked along the beach and pointed to the commercial boats heading off to sea. The wind blew and the winter air turned my daughter’s cheeks into a perfect shade of red. As we turned to go, I noticed her walking behind me, doing the same thing I did when I was her age; she made sure to place her foot in at least one of my footsteps.

She was born ten years ago today….
I may never hit the lottery, or become rich and famous. The words I write might never go further than my pen to a page, but she is proof that I am capable of creating something perfect.

Parenting does not come with a manual and babies are not born with instructions. I never knew how to blow dry a little girl’s hair….I had to learn. I never changed diapers before or heard of the croup or coxsackie. If it were not for my little girl, I would not have learned how to play with tea sets or dolls, or more importantly, if it were not for my little girl, I would have never known my true purpose in this thing we call life.

I admit it; I am not always patient. I yell. I can be too tough and there are times when I forget that a kid just needs to be a kid. I admit that I work too much and sleep too little, and there are times when I sink into the couch and watch television when the two of us could be doing something together. I’m not the easiest teacher to have, and God knows I still have a lot to learn, but I do love my daughter.

She is growing up so fast. Next, she’ll be out with her friends all the time. She’ll be going to parties. She’ll go to middle school and then high school. A day will come when she goes for her learner’s permit and then her driver’s license. Of course, I know these things are far away…but when she was born, I thought her tenth birthday was far away too.
And here we are. The kid has reached her double digits.

The truth is, no matter how old she gets, or big she becomes, I’ll always call her Punky. No matter how responsible, successful, or mature, I will always see her as the little girl that asked, “Daddy, will you lay wiff me?”

Happy Birthday Punky!

Daddy loves you.


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