It is not an exaggeration to say that she was born while I danced in the fire. This little girl of mine, the one I call the dark eyed beauty showed up during one of the more tumultuous periods of my life. She was born two days after my father’s triple bypass, a full week after her due date. I suppose that it is fair to say that her late arrival was one of the earliest indications that she takes after her father. She and I have our own sense of time which most of the time is ok, except for when it is not.
I am no different from any other parent when I say that I can’t believe how fast the time has passed. I am sure that this won’t be the only post that write about her this week and that is ok. Her older brother starred in quite a few- call it privilege of being the older sibling.
This little girl of mine has long dark hair that extends well past her shoulders and ends in curls. She has a handful of freckles on her face and a cute button nose that she sometimes scrunches up. When she wants something from me she likes to climb up on my lap, throw her arms around my neck and shower me with kisses. I try to sit stone faced and unresponsive, but I never last long. That smile breaks across my face like waves pounding the shore and she smiles back at me.
I still manage to say no and she looks confused. “Daddy, I didn’t ask yet.” I tell her that I know that but that the answer is no. It is too late for a story, candy, dessert, gifts, whatever it is the answer is no. She glares at me and I glare back. I ask her if she has forgotten that I have ten thousand sisters and have watched her aunts play the same game with her grandfather. She smiles and says “dang it” and skips out of the room.
I love watching her skip like that- it is joy personified.
Seven years ago I had no idea whether she was a boy or a girl. Seven years ago I remember wondering what the week would bring. My father’s surgery was already scheduled for the 21st but I was still concerned. Just a few short months before I had gotten a call telling me that he was on a ventilator and that he probably wouldn’t make it. I sat on a six hour plane ride and prayed/willed him to be there when I got off. Hit the ground running and grabbed the first available car at Hertz. I like to talk about how fast I drove and how I would have won the Indy 500 that day. That is how I remember it.
But maybe it didn’t happen that way. Maybe the sands of time have blurred those moments- I don’t know.
The flight home was another six hours of angst and uncertainty. Back home I talked her older brother and spoke to her through her mother’s belly. “Little one, listen to your father and wait to show until after grandpa’s surgery.”
Time moved in jerks and starts. Five minutes stretched into hours and then hours were compressed into minutes. It was life in bizarro world. My grandparents asked pointed questions about my father, suggested that maybe I hadn’t told them how serious the situation was. I didn’t deny or acknowledge it. I did what I had to do because that is what a father does.
A few minutes prior to midnight she made her way into the world. A soft scream let us know that she was around and then for a few moments she lay in her incubator, an entire hand wrapped around my index finger. I stared at her and made the kinds of promises that daddies make to their daughters. I whispered words of encouragement and blessed her and marveled over her perfection.
Now almost seven years later the baby is a girl who dances. She dances to music that I play and to music that only she hears. She takes my hand and I twirl her around and we dance together.
Daughters are different. Not better or worse than boys, just different. I love my children equally and without question. But for the next few days she is ready to pretend to be queen of the castle and I am good with that. She has a long list of things that she would like. An American Girl doll, a webkin, a bear and a request to go to Disneyland are all part of her plan.
She comes to me and says that she would give them all up if I could give her one gift. I tell her that I wouldn’t give her all those things at once any way and she laughs. She says she knows that but she still wants me to know what her request is. I nod and she tells me that she would give all of those things up if I could just let her keep her house.
Before I can respond she nods her head and climbs into my lap. She knows that she has asked for the very thing that I can’t give her. We sit in silence and I wrap my arms a little bit tighter around her. The future is coming faster than any of us want and we have no choice but to answer it.
This but a moment in time that I try to burn into my memory. Today she is almost seven and able to sit on my lap. Seven years from now she may still feel entitled to sit on my lap whenever she wants, but she won’t be so little. She won’t fit the way that she does now and I am ok with that. But I wouldn’t mind if she didn’t grow up quite so quickly.