My 7-year-old daughter adores her daddy. Actually, that’s an understatement. She is infatuated with him. She writes him elaborate love letters on a daily basis. Smothers him with affection all the time. As they pinch each other’s cheeks, they clench their teeth and communicate in their own ear-piercing, screeching language. Her nickname for him is “Big Squeezie.” His hand towel accompanies her to bed so she can inhale his scent as she peacefully drifts off to sleep.

As I watch my daughter idolize her daddy, I am flooded with memories of my own first love.

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With sleep still in my eyes, as I lay in his massive bed, I’d watch him get ready for work. As he knotted his tie, I’d eagerly wait for the moment he would playfully swipe its silky fabric down my face. I felt visible.

We would sit and talk on the large, soft sofa in front of the big bay window. My skinny arms wrapped around his neck. My face buried in his chest. Breathing in the sweet, subtle smell of his cologne. I felt safe.

Dozing off beside him on the couch on a lazy Sunday afternoon while a ball game played on the television. I felt peace.

When he got back from business trips, I’d run to greet him at the door. He’d always arrive with a smile and that same gift. Books. Beautiful, new, text-scented books that opened my eyes to the world beyond and served as a sweet reminder that I was on his mind while he was away. I felt loved.

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One of our very first dates was dinner and a show at the Westchester Evening Dinner Theatre. I got all dressed up and was giddy with excitement on the way there. I felt beautiful.  

He was exceptional at math and would help me with my studies. I felt lucky.

He taught religious education class but never stuck to the curriculum. All the kids wanted him as their teacher. The deacon disliked him. I felt proud.

He’d take me for rides on the tractor. The warmth of his large chest against my small back. Engine roaring, wind in my hair, fresh cut grass in my lungs. I felt alive.

His laugh was loud and infectious. Hearing it made my heart soar.

On the dance floor, he only slow danced. That was enough for me.

He was everything a girl could want in a boy. Humble, selfless, hard-working, honest, patient, and kind. Still is.

I remember thinking, I love this man. Still do.

My first love.

My daddy.

Laura Bagnarol

Laura Bagnarol is the founder of Be Big Be Brave LLC, a company that provides inspiring programs that encourage kids to be their big, brave selves. She is also the daughter of two Italian immigrants, the sister to five amazing siblings, the wife of one incredible husband, and the mom of three fiery children. Laura lives in the Hudson Valley region of New York. You can follow her @bebigbebrave.