Andy and I walk back to my mom’s house across the street from the park and he reaches for my hand. Fireworks explode in my stomach and I cannot help but smile as we hold hands for the first time. He just asked me to be his girlfriend, and made it clear he didn’t just want to date me, but his intentions were to move towards marriage.
Eleven years later – married for over nine of those – and I realize that the simple gesture of hand-holding has changed. We no longer hold hands in the car, or when we sit together on the couch, or when we go out for walks. It is not that our hands are empty, but rather, they are full. There was a time when we only had each other, but now, we have three precious little girls with small hands that hide perfectly in our own.
As we take walks, Nichole needs Andy to hold her hand –even if just to prevent her from wandering – and she happily walks along her daddy, looking up and smiling at him, letting him know his presence is one of the greatest joys in her life.
Nina holds our hand as she learns to balance and take steps. She needs reassurance that we are with her. She walks ahead with independent steps, but we are quick to offer our hand when we know she needs to gain her balance once more. She knows we are proud of her, of how far she has come along in just one year. Her wheelchair gathers dust in our basement while our steady hands offer her the support that she needs.
Although Ellie is almost seven years old, she still holds our hand just because it is a gesture of love, and she likes to show us that she loves us.
Sometimes, we watch our girls hold each other’s hands. We smile watching big-sister and little-sister try to help Nina along. Or how Ellie offers her hand to her baby sister Nichole, and how willingly Nichole follows along.
These precious little hands are so full of love.
Andy and I drop the girls off at school. We walk down the hall and instinctively reach for each other. We hold hands. Our fingers intertwined as we walk through the school, out the door, and towards the car. There are no fireworks in my stomach. Instead, there is a deep love for the man that I get to do life with. We have journeyed together, grown-up together, and embraced whatever comes our way together. And still, after all these years, he reaches for me and holds my hand, letting me know that I am still his favorite girl.