4 December 2015
She is a delicate creature, but strong as an ox in disposition and will. Her hands and feet are her father’s: long, slender, and easily hurt, yet when she applies her dancer’s discipline to them, they float in the air. She has my long neck and a wee pixie nose—not sure where that came from. Her eyes and curved brows express the many nuances of girldom, from scorn to surprise to sly manipulation. Her pre-orthodontic teeth have what they call character, large now for a face that has yet to catch up.
She is my lovely, bullheaded angel, my roller-derby queen, my wannabe Broadway musical star…or this week perhaps she will slay the judges at a tryout for America’s Got Talent. She has talent in spades, but she’s too impatient to take the time to hone it just right. She lives for the spotlight. She wants it all, and she wants it now.
I watch her from the shadows of a darkened theatre, and I marvel at her. She’s the smallest by far, determined as hell to keep up with the big girls. They leap and pirouette and she skitters beside them. Her legs take two strides for their every one. She is so much that I never could have been at her age. How much of her character was forged in the womb, and how much came from me? How much came from the experience of living in a broken family, or from having brothers who are nine or more years older than her?
She is far from perfect. She shrieks when she’s hungry and tired and stressed. She fudges the truth. She’s unnervingly light-fingered. Still, by and large, she makes for an affectionate and entertaining companion. Her good-heartedness sometimes makes my soul ache. She loves to distraction, and is wounded when that love is not unconditionally returned. I worry these best-buddy times will soon end—her attitude already shows signs of erosion. That rite of passage, the teens, may rend the fabric between us. I brace myself for the onslaught while praying it never actually comes. I’ve raised two other kids past their teens—Lord knows I’ve paid my dues.
So I was going to write about dark things today. About guns and murder and the way I would feel if my daughter were suddenly stolen from me. I fully intended to take my preceding profile of her and transform it into a pillar of towering rage.
But I could not.
I could not, because I can’t allow myself to picture bullets piercing her flesh, the light dead in her eyes, the pulse still in her chest, the dance gone from her legs. What parent can bring themselves to confront such a nightmare? So instead I’ll stop at the brink of diving into outrage, pull myself from the verge, bow my head, and reach aside to enfold slender fingers. So tiny, so frail, so like swan’s down as it floats weightless on an invisible eddy of air. It glides up and swirls down, nearly skidding to earth, till a puff buoys it upward to renew its ballet.
And I am that air.
I kneel, smiling, at the edge of the stage. I inhale, purse my lips, and gently I blow. Puff! She skims aloft as I elevate her with my breath. Puff! Dance, my beautiful child. Puff! Float above the ills of the world, safe from evil. Puff!
I raise my arms heavenward and open them wide. I cup my hands just like she does; she taught me how. The spotlights cut through a superfine mist, casting colors beyond. Down rains a silvery cloud of confetti.
And within this confection my little girl soars.
To read more letters, click on The Path!