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Holding Hands

About a week ago we were walking out of
the house after dinner, headed towards the park for our evening
romp. Maddie began walking down the front walk with Daddy as I held
Cora and tried to the get the front door locked. Cora began to fuss
and squirm, struggling to get down – she’s at that
stage where she hates to be carried and would rather keel over from
exhaustion than ask for help – and I said, “Hang on,
Cora, you need a hand getting down off the front step.”
Maddie heard me and ran back saying, “I’ll help Cora
down the step. Here, Cora, take my hand – see? Good! Good
job! Now do you want me to hold your hand while you walk? You do?
Ok!” And the two of them walked off happily, hand in

We’ve got a family rule:
you’re always holding an adult’s hand while crossing
the street. Maddie’s got it down but Cora’s still
struggling with the essential unfairness of the whole thing, and as
we approached our first intersection I mentally geared up for the
argument. But somehow, Maddie beat me to it, and peering down at
Cora she said earnestly, “Now, Cora, you’ve got to hold
a hand when you cross the street, ok? So hold my hand and
don’t let go.” Apprehensive at Maddie’s ability
to keep Cora from running out in the street, I said, “Maddie,
it’s fine if you hold only Cora’s hand, but Cora needs
to hold a grownup’s hand as well.”

Undaunted, Maddie looked at Cora and said, “Cora, you can
hold my hand, but you need to hold Mommy’s hand too,

Cora looked at me, and held her hand up to me in cheerful

Once safely across the street, me still
pondering whose child I’d gotten by mistake, Cora dropped my
hand but held firmly to Maddie’s, and I watched the two of
them walk off in perfect contentment.

And thus began a love affair.

We’d thought it might be a one-time thing, but Cora
absolutely adores holding Maddie’s hand while we walk. Coming
home from the park that very same night, Maddie began running ahead
of Cora; Maddie’s simply an unstoppable machine, and
she’ll run to the end of the street where she’ll wait
patiently for the grownup to catch up. As Maddie disappeared into
the dusk, Cora began wailing and trying to run after her, tripping
over herself in her exhaustion, a hand held out imploringly towards
Maddie. “Cora, do you want to hold my hand?” An
emphatic headshake no, still while holding the arm out, palm up
beseechingly. “Do you want Maddie to hold your hand?”
“Ess, ess, ess!” she sobbed. “Maddie, can you
come back please? Cora is crying because she wants to hold your

I saw Maddie turn around obediently and run back towards me.
“What’s the matter, Cora? Do you want to hold my
hand?” Cora cried, nodding, arm still waving like an
outstretched oblation. As Maddie grasped the situation her face lit
up, and I saw gratification, love, and the joy of being desired
wash over her face. “Well, then, we can do that, can’t
we?” she said, unconsciously adopting the lingo of a
solicitous adult talking to a small precious child. “Here you
go, Cora,” she said, hand firmly in her little
sister’s, and the cries abruptly ceased. “Is that all
better? Your Maddie’s here, so don’t worry,” she
crooned, and they walked home together hand in hand.

Since then it’s been more of the same; if we’re out and
about and there’s hand-holding to be done, it’s Maddie
Cora wants. Oftentimes Cora will reach back for me as well, and
I’ll feel the privilege of being included in that group, feel
the contentment radiating off Cora as she marches along, sandwiched
securely between loving pillars. But just as often there’s no
one but Maddie for the job, and I see the joy Maddie brings to Cora
reflected back in the pride Maddie feels at being needed and
fulfilling that need.

My girlfriend Abby once told me, when I was in the throes of
newborn hell with Cora and struggling to juggle my guilt over
“abandoning” Maddie for the new model, that when you
see your children playing together it’s all worth it –
that you can’t imagine the joy the sight will bring until
you’re witness to it. And yes, I’ve enjoyed watching
the two of them play together, but frankly, it’s mostly
because it means they’re distracting each other and Mommy can
get stuff done. That definitely brings me some joy.

But watching the two of them walk hand in hand, I see for the first
time a unique relationship being forged – one that’s
two-way, one that’s give and take, and one that is exclusive
to the two of them. I see hints of how they’ll be
indispensable to each other, irreplaceable in different ways, and
how they’ll make the other person happy, bring her
contentment, in ways that I never will. I look at the genesis of
that relationship starting right now, walking hand in hand at dusk,
and think –

This, that I am witnessing, I did this. I gave them to each other.

And that gives me much joy.


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