The sun was bright in that deceptive way that makes it look much warmer outside than it really is.
A yellow scarf was wound carefully around my neck. I tugged at it with a mittened hand, unaccustomed to such trappings. The matching wool cap made my forehead itch, but pulling it off made my unprotected ears too cold. I kept it on.
We left the truck parked beside the road and hiked up a small hill, my six-year-old feet sinking into the several inches of fresh snow that had fallen the night before. Dad proclaimed it the perfect place and gently lobbed a snowball in my direction. It landed on my shoulder and I giggled as I tried to match his ability in the craft and toss of a perfect snowball.
My mother and little brother were supposed to be there, but they were home with the flu. So it was just me and my dad. All day in the mountains, playing and laughing and freezing.
I had to go to the bathroom. Immediately. We found a restaurant that had a bathroom out back. There was a sign on the Women's Room door and though I could read "Out of Order" I didn't know what that meant. Dad told me I'd have to use the boys' bathroom and I panicked.
"That's not allowed!" I said. "Won't I go to jail?"
He grinned at my childish fear and assured me that I would not, in fact, go to jail if I used the boys' bathroom. He also cautioned me not to make a habit of it. It was an unnecessary warning. I've never used the men's room again.
There was lunch and sledding and a lot of stumbling, but mostly laughter.
Over the years, my relationship with my father grew distant. Strained. There was less laughter and more fighting. And every time I started to believe that he'd never really loved me, I thought back to that day in the snow. A day when it was just me and him. A perfect day when I was the only one that mattered.
Things between us are better now. I've grown up and so has he. It isn't perfect, but there are moments now when I remember what it felt like to be that giggling little girl.