The weather of that day in New Bern will be back again this year. And the next. And the year after that. It was about 30 degrees, rainy, windy. Typical winter weather in eastern N.C. It’ll be like that again.

The hooded Winnie the Pooh fleece with “ears” on the hood lies tucked away in her closet in a bag of clothes I’ll never part with. I can see it any time I want.

The Harris Teeter parking lot this was taken in is still the same, probably always will be. The carts will be the same for at least another few years, I can visit them any time I want.

But what won’t be the same is Kalista. I came across a jump drive for the memory chip that was in my old cell phone in a kitchen drawer tonight. I wondered what photos were on that chip. I found this one, from a wintry day two years ago when I first moved to New Bern. Kalista was barely 2 and wanted to put her sippy cup of juice in the cart cup holder. She’ll never be that way again.

I still remember those days. Vividly, I recall trips like this to the grocery store. Wanted the best stuff for her – the healthiest. Still do. Wanted her to stop reaching for things from the cart. Now she rides in the “big” side, if she even rides at all.

I had no plan for anything. Was just winging the parenting thing, as a recently-turned single dad. Playing it by ear and hoping for the best. Although I’ve learned a lot, that’s exactly what I still do. There’s no such thing as a plan that can actually be followed – one of the loudest things I’ve learned.

I was worried. Still am. Hoped for us to get through that time. Worried I would fail. Concerned she wouldn’t be happy. Still do, still do, still do.

Lookit, though – we made it through, and now I want to go back. Wish I cherished that day, those days, more than I worried. Wish she still fit into that fleece and relied on me to keep the hood up because she didn’t know it would shield her from the wind whipping across the parking lot. I wish I could have bottled that time to sip throughout the rest of my life. Little tastes from time to time would suit me just fine, God, if you aren’t willing to keep her that small forever.

I’ve come to cherish every day now, knowing that in two years I will be sitting at my computer writing the same note. Does no good. Even pictures from a month ago reflect evidence it will all be over on a day that’s coming soon.

I hope the day I lose my little girl does not come with a crash. Please God, let me take sips of the antifreeze rather than make me face the firing squad.

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