Until the Bell Rings

As I slowly progress into the independency of adulthood, I often reflect on whither the years since childhood have vanished. In the course of these recurring thoughts, I always happen upon the reminiscent courtyard of my elementary school wherein my father would wait with me in the morning until the bell rang. Not all parents stayed with their children, but mine did. We would play in the four-square and count the yellow numbers painted on the pavement to pass the seemingly then trivial time until I had to go inside. When the bell rang once again at the end of the day, I would leave school to find my dad patiently waiting in the courtyard, almost as if he had never left.

Throughout the course of those blissful years, my father never failed to accompany me on the field trips that have been made memorable only because he was there. Be it the cozy apple farm in the fall, the thrilling horse show on that rainy day, or frosty skating rink in the dead of winter, the most vivid image that has remained with me through all this time is that of my father’s warm presence. While in part I wish I could have recognized when it was that this time of life came to a close, it really does not matter because amidst the blistering change that time has brought since then, my father’s actions have never faltered.

Across the country and halfway around world, my dad and I have travelled together. From my old school courtyard where countless children and parents would come and go, my dad has taken me to see the numerous nameless faces that roam the colourful Manhattan streets. In the same way that he used to hold my hand in the bitterly cold days before school, he did so again as we crossed the busy intersections of the urban jungle with which I was too fascinated to pay attention where I was walking. As exciting as new interactions and adventures may be, surely the heart always returns to that which is familiar. Be it the lively school courtyard, the bustling sidewalks of New York, or the foreign crowds of Taiwan, it is my father’s meek smile and gentle face that stand out against the sea of memories that drift through my mind.

The time with my dad in that now distant courtyard would not last forever, as I inevitably had to be separated from him to begin my day at school. Nevertheless, his act of simply being present for whatever allowable time existed has become the foundation upon which I rest my confidence in his unwavering investment and support as a father. With warmth I remember seeing my dad linger as I would leave his side to walk into school. It is the same warmth that accompanies me still when I turn to see him standing with a smile before the security checkpoint at the airport, where he has just driven me, at some ridiculous hour of the night to be sure, to go on a new adventure of my own.

Like the unshakable brick walls that held my school together and enclosed that nostalgic courtyard, or the foundational pavement upon which we used to stand together, the surety of my father’s support has never wavered. He has made me confident that no matter the circumstances, he will be by my side to get me through the rest of the ringing school bells, to see me off when the career bells commence, and to give me away at the sound of the wedding bells. It has been years since I saw that old courtyard, but I know it is still there. In the same way, whether or not my father is physically with me, he has established his presence in my life in a way that could never be shaken by any extent of time or distance.

Kassiani Tzoganakis