My father beckoned to me from across the room. “Nechamie, do you want to come with me to the store?” I eagerly nodded my consent, and my father took my small, chubby fist into his large, warm hand. We walked hand in hand down the small path leading to the store. I skipped and jumped merrily with all the gay enthusiasm of a six-year-old. What fun! My father had picked me—and only me—to come along for the walk!

My father had picked me—and only me—to come along

We were on vacation in California, so the dinner would be a simple one. My father chose the few items he needed, and as he was paying by the register, he added one more item to the basket—a bottle of Coca-Cola. My eyes widened in surprise. Coke? My father was buying Coke!? My mother was an avowed health food nut, and Coke was not a part of our household staples. My father responded with a conspiratorial wink. I knew that look well. It meant my father was about to treat me to a forbidden delight, and I wasn’t to tell any of my other siblings.

Instead of returning to our cabin, my father led me to a small, isolated grove of trees nestled on the hillside. As I savored each sip of the sweet, bubbly drink, my father told me a story. He recounted the tale of a young boy at sea in the midst of a raging storm. He blew mightily to imitate the roaring wind, and blew raspberries to mimic the thunderous rain. I laughed, enjoying the sound effects in the story, yet I also shivered in fear for the young boy’s fate. I sat there transfixed (even forgetting to drink my Coke!).

The vacation ended several days later. The majesty of the glorious redwood trees, the vast and powerful ocean, the quaint cottages—all was lost on me. I retained one memory, though: the memory of my father spending time with me alone, without the presence of my much beloved, and at times annoying, siblings. It created a warm feeling deep within me that whispered, “You’re special, Nechamie. Tatty wants to spend special time alone with you, so you must be special.”

The feeling the whisper engendered intensified, as my parents frequently made sure to spend individual time with me (and each of my siblings) on various occasions. We never did anything cataclysmic; we simply enjoyed each other’s company.

My mother would often walk with me on Shabbat morning to our local botanical gardens. In the throes of my teenage years, a week could go by with us barely seeing each other. Amidst the magical beauty of the gardens, we would talk for almost the first time that week. My mother listened with love and empathy as I talked about the problems I was facing in school and the myriad of frustrations that cropped up. Sometimes, feeling philosophical, I would talk about my dreams and ambitions for the future.

As I grew older, I began to replicate “special time” with my siblings. I took them out to lunch, went shopping with them, and played games with them, all the while weaving ties of love and affection.

My baby is still an infant, and has no siblings yet to compete with his parents' love and attention. In my mind’s eye, however, I see him as a six-year-old child, his tiny hand clasped trustingly in mine. I envision tucking a much-desired treat into that hand, and telling him the same story my father told me. But most vivid of all is the face of my child lighting up, secure in the feeling that he is the most important person in my life. I envision transmitting the feeling that is rooted deep in my heart: the feeling of a six-year-old girl secure in her parents’ love.