She must have run out the back door when she heard the alarms. Come to think of it her brother had mentioned that loud noises did scare her. The fire had been contained over an hour ago, but it still bothered him that he couldn’t find her. He was going to make one more sweep of the place. Something just told him that this time would be different.
Family room. No.
Wait a minute. As he was stepping out of the bathroom he heard what appeared to be the voice of a small child. But he had already checked the bathroom several times before and had heard and seen nothing.
Then he saw her.
Lying on her back in the empty bathtub. Holding a tattered copy of Guess How Much I Love You up as high as she could reach. Just to capture what little bit of light came through the window. The sun had long since set so the only source of light was coming from the moon.
He could not believe his eyes. Why was she still here? How did she not hear the sirens, smell the smoke, hear her family’s cries for her?
As he took a few seconds to fully digest what he was seeing, he couldn’t help but notice that the child had not even acknowledged his presence. In fact, she kept right on reading. He did not want to startle her, so he waited. And as he did he began to notice the child become more and more animated. And then, just as she was about to read the last few pages, she turned to him.
Up until that point he did not think that she even knew he was in the room. But she did. She knew all along. And it was at this point that she handed him the book and asked if he could read the last few pages. He took the book without thinking.
The request was such a simple one and yet one that he could not fulfill. Words never came easy to him. And he wasn’t about to make a fool of himself in front of a small child that he didn’t even know.
She could sense his uneasiness with her request so she let him continue to hold the book while she began the last few pages. And as she began to read the last few lines she stood up and held the book as high as her six-year-old arms could reach.
But it must not have been high enough. Because she asked him if he could put her up on his shoulders. So that she could reach even higher.
This was the first word he had uttered. But he just had to know. And what came next, well…
She told him that it only happens once a month. When she is finally able to see the moon in its entirety. And some months, depending on the weather, she isn’t able to see the moon at all. So by lifting her up higher, while she read the last few pages, she would be that much closer to it.
Simple enough he thought. This was one request that he could grant. So he picked her up gently and placed her on his shoulders as she held the book up as high as she could towards the fading moonlight. And as he did, she began to read:
“I love you to the moon”, he said, and closed his eyes.
Oh, that’s far,” said Big Nutbrown Hare. “That’s very, very far.”
Big Nutbrown Hare settled Little Nutbrown Hare into his bed of leaves.
He leaned over and kissed him good night.
Then he lay down close by and whispered with a smile,
“I love you right up to the moon and back.”
(Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney)
When she was done reading he put her back down and it was at that moment that he noticed that she was smiling. But as she did, tears were rolling down her cheeks. He did not know why. Had he done something wrong? He had held her as he as he could. Towards the moonlight. What more had she wanted?
It was at that moment that he realized that the child’s mother was in the room. He had no idea how long she had been there. But what he did know was that she was crying too.
He figured that her tears were from finding out that her daughter was alive and well. But then she walked over to him and hugged him for what seemed like forever. And it was then that he found out why the little girl was crying and what the moon had to do with it.
Her mother explained that the book that she had in her hands, Guess How Much I Love You, was the book that she and her father used to read every night before he put her to bed. It meant the world to her. To both of them.
She went on to explain how she continues to read it every night. And on nights when there is a full moon, she reads the entire book twice. And when she gets to the last line, she holds the book as high as she can, hoping to capture as much moonlight as possible. Hoping that her father will be on one of those moonbeams.
It was starting to all make sense now.
The tears. The lifting. The moon.
He hugged them both and then went back to the station. It had been a long night and he wanted to get home to his wife and kid. But there was one stop he had to make before he went home.
When he finally got home it was after ten o’clock and everyone was asleep. He showered, reheated some leftovers and headed to bed. He kissed his daughter on the cheek and closed the door gently. He must have woken her because she called him back into the room. He kissed her good night, told her he loved her and turned to leave the room.
Daddy what’s in the bag? Oh, it’s nothing Honey. Show me Daddy. Is it for me?
And at that moment, he paused, reflected on everything that had taken place that night, and replied
Yes it is Honey, yes it is.
He opened the bag and showed her what he had purchased. He handed it to her and said
Honey, I am ready to learn.
They must have read that book ten times that night. And as he was leaving the room his daughter called out
Daddy I love you right up to the moon
and with tears in eyes and a smile on his face he replied
and back Honey, and back.