Dad holds my hand all the way to the bus that first morning, anchoring me in the way only a dad can. His hand envelopes mine with warmth and stills some of the trembling. I miss him already, and he’s still so near.
“You’re going to have the best time.” Dad smiles down at me. “You’ll see.”
I’m not convinced. “But what if I...”
He squeezes my hand, a gentle pulse. “Oh, I almost forgot.” He releases my hand long enough to fish around his front pocket for something. When his hand meets mine again, he tucks something in my palm. It’s hard, a strange combination of smooth and rough.
My mouth opens, in true child fashion, to ask a million questions about this unusual gift. Dad raises a finger to his lips then says, “It’s not goodbye. It’s an acorn. When you get lonesome, you have this acorn to remind you of me... and when you get home, we’ll talk about all of your adventures. Deal?”
I nod. “Deal.” And much too soon I’m whisked away from my dad.
All day, I held tightly to the acorn. When I felt frightened, the acorn was my dad holding my hand. When my heart ached for my parents, I clutched the acorn to my chest and it became a hug.
Soon enough, I was home again and the stories flowed from me in a non-stop current of colors, letters, and numbers.