A few days ago, I said goodbye to my daughter. She’s moving across the country, and while I intend to follow her, I’ll be a few weeks behind. On her last day in Florida, we decided the appropriate goodbye to the Sunshine State would be spent at the beach, watching the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico.

Afternoon gave way to evening, and my daughter’s playdate was not over- and I was beginning to get annoyed. It was getting late. The universe knew that this was my special day with my daughter, and yet it did not care. It mocked my plans, and I was left to grumble to myself until they finally left.

We hurried to the car, sped down the road, and hoped and prayed to make it to the beach before the sunset. The feeling of annoyance still permeated every bone in my body- until my daughter pointed out the clouds. What a magnificent sight to behold, if you’ve never witnessed the awesome power of Florida clouds. We started taking snapshots as we sped down the road. The annoyance started to fade. I no longer cared about making it “on time.”

We stopped at Starbucks for a cup of coffee and a hot chocolate. Though she’d had it before, this is the first time it came in a cup that looked just like the ones Daddy brings home from work. She felt like such a big girl, and made me take pictures of Starbucks to commemorate her first “coffee” at Starbucks. When we finally made it to the beach, it was not only pitch dark, but the clouds now covered every inch of the sky, blanketing the beach in a darkness usually reserved for haunted houses. As it turns out, we had to put the camera away. I then realized we were the only souls on the beach- it became our playground, and so it began. The play.

We removed our shoes and ran to the water. Soon, she began chasing me, as I screamed in feigned horror at the six-year-old who was trying to get me. We fell to our knees on the sand of Clearwater beach, exhausted and laughing. We made sand angels. A few minutes later, we were up again, she chasing me and throwing sand at my back. We had a sandball fight. We made a sandcastle. We walked through the water, hand in hand. Then she said it.

“Daddy, this is the best night of my life.”

She would utter those words several times more throughout the next hour or so, and each time, my heart melted. I took a break, under the pretense of being exhausted, when in reality I simply wanted to watch my flesh and blood frolick in the sand. She ran with reckless abandon, laughed like no one was watching, and flung herself into the sand, laughing even more hysterically each time. This was my daughter, and tonight, this was our beach, this was our night, this was our world. And it was perfect.