Round and round I spun. Anne clung to me, laughing, her face pressed against my chest. I sped up. Her giggles bubbled up, and her tiny hands clenched my shirt. The room blurred. I stumbled about in a larger circle, nearly losing my balance. I gyroed my way to the couch and dropped her onto it, from just enough height to give her a rush.
She was upright in a moment, her head still bobbling, her toothy grin wide and inexhaustible. “Dizzy again.” She raised her arms. “Again!” If I had placed her on the floor, she would have been unable to stand.
“Just a second. Daddy needs to rest.” After fifteen minutes of dancing and spinning, I didn’t know if I could stand.
I looked at the clock. It marched toward the dread hour–bedtime. I found my footing with effort. “One more, then night-night.”
“Mm-mmm,” she purred as she extended her arms up and up, reaching out for me. I lifted her. She was light and fit perfectly in my arms and across my chest, snuggled there in giddy anticipation.
I felt her body tighten, and I heard her soft, sweet voice: “Ready.”
I started slow, like every amusement park ride, establishing my footing, winding up the gears. Then I accelerated, enjoying her squeal of delight. I closed my eyes to relish the force pulling her away from me, her effort to stay close. I loosened my grip just enough for her laughter to gain an edge of panic, then pulled her back in. I allowed the sensation of spinning, spinning, to overwhelm my senses, and soon I began to stagger unsteadily, as if the world were twisting at a different pace than my feet.
I slowed, then, eyes still closed, my daughter still near me. I opened my eyes.
It was dark. I sensed dim lights around the edge of the room, people in the nearby shadows. Anne was still in my arms, but she had drawn away, somehow. My hands were on her waist.
When I finally looked at her, she smiled. The smile hadn’t changed. It still shone with unfettered joy. There was still that gap between the front teeth. But she was in white, and we spun, slowly, in gentle revolutions. I could not take my eyes off her face, and she could not stop smiling.
“Do you remember how you used to spin me?” she asked.
“I started when you were just a baby, as early as your mom would let me.”
“I held on so tight.” There was something I had never seen in her smile now, something mature and exquisite. “I never wanted to stop.”
The music rose in waves. She looked away for a moment, crystal light in her eye. I hardly knew what I was saying. “One last time, huh?”
She laughed, that short, sweet giggle that seemed to burst out like a surprise every time. “Dizzy again, Dad? Again?”
I blinked and blinked, unable to see clearly. “Of course.”
We spun like wind ornaments in a stately wind, like helicopter seeds falling to the ground in the delicious chill of autumn, like the hands of a clock reaching the dread hour. I heard the last strains of music approach. I closed my eyes against it. They faded into silence. I started to let go.
“Again, daddy, again!”
There she was, not even two, looking up with round eyes from where I had dropped her on the couch. “I like it,” she said, wavering unsteadily. “Again.”
I lifted her up, the church bell four blocks away ringing out seven — bedtime. “Here we go,” I said.
I spun her as fast as I could, and I held her tight.