It's 19 degrees outside. Mathilda has graduated from mini potholder-shaped mittens to five-finger gloves. She and I are in our coats and hats, miraculously on track for getting to school on time. I bend over to try to wiggle the first glove onto her tiny hand.
Seven minutes—at least four hundred and twenty seconds—later we are still working on the first glove.
Our coats and hats are off, lying around us on the kitchen floor. I've begun to sweat. My lower back is seizing up. A supplicant on his knees, I'm practicing controlled breathing as I continue to wiggle her fingers into their assigned places beneath the wool.
"Papa?" she says.
Despite my repeated demonstrations and variously phrased edifications, she's not grasping the intellectual theory or functional process of five digits into their five little warm houses. And I can't get angry at her. She's two-and-a-half years old.
And it's not her fault, she's from Orange Country. Which means she's got a two-year handicap before she understands how winter things work. The only way we can get these gloves on is if I remain calm.
But these goddamn gloves have such ridiculously small finger holes. It's like threading a fucking needle, if the thread only wanted to pick a nostril or point at the squirrel outside or get some more milk please. For god sakes I'll just get her stupid goddamn mittens that are too fucking small for her hands.
"What?" I bite off in a fraction of a syllable, as I look up at her face.
"You look beautiful," she says, eyes glittering.
The universe suctions all the air from my lungs.
Don't don't cry in front of your daughter. When you're in the car later, alone, then you can sob, like a real man.
"Thank you, sweetheart." I squeeze her hand. "Can you wiggle your fingers inside the glove, please?"
She does and all five fingers move right into their spots for the first time.
"That's excellent, sweets!" I tell her to make a fist, the true way of finding out if all fingers are in the right places. Sure enough, they are.
"Fist bump." That she knows how to do. I receive an appropriately delivered small pink wool fist bump.
The second glove slips on perfectly on the third try.