When I was a young girl, my family spent weekends at a lake overtaken by alligators. It was good fishing for my dad, not ideal swimming for my sister and me. Regardless, we loved spending time at the cabin because there were no distractions. It was nature and family. And that was it.
Future president, happy daddy: George W. Bush on the day his twins Jenna and Barbara were born.
After most dinners, my dad would ask, "Who wants to go on a night walk?" In retrospect, I'm sure he knew how eager I would be to grab a flashlight and conquer the loop around the Iake, the thrill of the looming alligators in the back of my mind. Sometimes my sister and mom came along, but often it was just my dad and me.
Related video: Watch Jenna Bush Hager talk about her night walks with her dad
TBT: Jenna with her dad, George W. Bush, during her grandfather's vice-presidential campaign.
We walked with the moonlight as our guide and talked. I don't remember exact details from our conversations 25 years ago, but I remember the feeling: how loved and safe I felt on our adventurous hikes. He loved his little girl so much that I know those hours of uninterrupted time talking and listening are as precious to him as they are to me. Those night walks are symbolic of how he was as a father: simple, always present, always there. I never once doubted his love.
And I think because he was the first man in my life, the man who taught me how to love, when I was choosing a spouse I chose someone very similar.
Beach buddies: Henry and Mila
Henry, like my dad, is very steady. They both love to laugh and LOVE to make people laugh. And now when I watch Henry with Mila and Poppy, I see through his eyes how my dad loved me. When Henry is with them, he is present and fun. When Daddy-Boy (as Mila calls him) gets home from work, Mila sprints to the elevator. I love seeing his face light up as he throws her in the air. I adore the quiet moments when the girls cuddle into Henry's lap to read or put their little arms around his neck while he sings their special lullabies.
Sometimes I get nostalgic for those Texas nights and the hum of sweet conversation, with only the moon and stars lighting the rocky path. But mainly I am so grateful that I had a dad who made me feel special and loved. And now as we are starting our little family, I look forward to watching Henry create the same precious, simple memories for our girls.
This post has been updated since its original publication date of June 18, 2015.
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