Warsaw and Pogo Sticks

I learned something new last night from the book I just started, The Zookeeper’s Wife: In 1919, a Burmese man fashioned a stick to pronk like an antelope, for his daughter to use crossing puddles on her way to school. Her name was Pogo.

Something about this thrilled and also soothed me a little, the father’s inventiveness for his daughter in what I imagine was an act of love. The picture of a girl bouncing her way to school, nearly one hundred years ago, and how her friends must have rushed to her when she arrived, all eager to have a turn. A memory of my own girls giggling at the foot of their grandma’s driveway, seeing who can stay on the pogo stick longest without tipping. The red slack-line Greg rigged up between two trees in the far corner of the backyard so many summers ago. How my own father has been visiting Warsaw this week with my mom and one of my two sisters, sharing pictures from the once-vibrant city Diane Ackerman describes. How time topples and life goes on. And how that zoo, once teeming with life, is now a bombed-out shell of its former greatness.

Father’s Day is this weekend, and I’ll drive to Amherst for a family dinner. Early memories with my dad: Watching Josie and the Pussycats before nursery school on the days he dropped me off, gifts of microscopes and telescopes and gnome houses and poetry magazines. His granddaughters know they can ask him for any book and it will appear in our mailbox days later. We tease him about how he falls asleep on the couch, reading something about trauma or memory, mothers and infants, soldiers or Shakespeare. I never doubted his enthusiasm for my mind–and have come to see that he understands my heart, too.

That every daughter would have a father who reads the poems she writes, holds her hand as she wobbles three feet above the ground, lets her fall and offers comfort when she needs it, watches her grow and accepts and loves her for the woman she becomes. Thank you, Dad. I love you.

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