When we first moved to St. Louis, we lived in a duplex with two tiers of concrete steps leading up to it. Killer stairs.
My friends KB and Mike came to visit with their three impossibly small children. Bridgid may have been nearly four. Jennie was two. Stephen was a babe in arms.
I can’t remember what else happened that weekend. We may have taken in the Zoo. Dined out. Drove around to look at this as yet unexplored brick city.
One thing I remember vividly. Mike put on a performance of dexterity and bravery that defied his well-known and humorously scorned thin ankles.
The family was packing up to leave. KB was at the back of the duplex, and was thus spared the mom-killing horror of what was about to happen.
But I had a front row box seat.
Bridgid, older toddler that she was, had made her way to the sidewalk, holding tightly to the railing. Michael, holding the baby in a handled infant seat, was watching Bridgid, but had not noticed Jennie edging toward the top step.
I had no stopwatch, of course, but I would estimate that this entire event took less than a second. I think it would make a great Olympic Event: The Dad Throwing Himself off the Grassy Knoll Holding a Baby in a Handled Carrier to Save the Life of a Two-year Old Who Missed That First Step and Was Falling To Her Death.
Because that’s exactly what happened. In one death-defying leap, Michael landed, caught Jennie by the arm without dropping the baby, and returned to the top of the grassy knoll. Even tiny Bridgid was impressed, her mouth open in amazement.
At that precise moment, KB strolled to the front of the condo, took in the sight of me with my hand on my heart, trying to put in back down in my chest after it had leapt into my mouth; Michael sweating like he’d run a marathon; Jennie ‘s little tear-stained face ; and, finally, Bridgid frozen in time in open-mouthed amazement.
KB said casually, “What’s goin’ on?”
We never told her.
But I have never, never, underestimated what a good dad will do for his kids.