Sharing smiles

Frost on my daughters window. © Peter Richardson

“Come see.”

I’m not awake and already I’m dragged from my bed to look at something only a four year-old will find interesting.

“What?”

“The window,” she says. “On the window.”

She’s built a tower with her table and chair, climbed up and opened the blind while I’ve been peacefully sleeping. I wish she wouldn’t do that. One day she’ll hurt herself.

“What?”

“The pattern.”

I take a closer look at what I’ve mistaken for condensation. It’s frost, but not like any frost pattern I’ve ever seen before. There are swirls and curls glinting and reflecting the rising sun. There are spirals like some kind of ice-fern and sparkling feathers of light.

“Don’t touch it,” I shout.

I dash down to my studio and grab the first camera I see. I bound up the stairs and find her huddled on a bean bag with tears bulging at the edge of her eyes.

“What’s up?”

“I touched it. Will I die?”

I laugh – but she’s serious.

“No of course not.”

“But you said don’t touch. You said it was dangerous.”

“No… I just didn’t want you to damage it.”

“Is it a sleeping ice-dragon?”

The sun has sent a red glow of fire into the frost.

“Yes. But it won’t hurt you. Ice-dragons are very kind, especially red ones.”

She sniffles and has one of those conflicted faces only kids can manage – a massive smile but tainted by the sadness still clinging to her eyes.

I wipe her tears on my pyjama sleeve.

“I was worried you’d wake the dragon. It will fly away soon anyway,” I say. “They always do when the sun comes up.”

Her face sinks into sadness.

“I’ll take a picture. To keep forever,” I say.

I smile and she smiles back – right up to her eyes.

My camera clicks on the smile and only then do I turn to the dragon. Another click and everything is captured – safe in the camera, and even safer in my memory.

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