So, how’d this happen? I asked myself, carefully shoe-horning another heavy box into my youngest daughter’s already too-tightly-packed car trunk. Yesterday she was eating Oreos in the kitchen, getting chocolate crumbs all over her clothes and cherubic cheeks. Today she’s loading up books and photos—cherished reminders from long ago when time meant nothing, and I was lulled into taking it for granted that she would always be here and things would go on as they’d always...
Crinoline dresses and taffeta hair bows. Goodnight kisses following prayers that were always deeply sincere; even when she was way-too-young to be doing so. Skinned knees and cheerleader practice, moving off to college and then back home again to commute the following semester, graduations accompanied by the obligatory dance recitals—where did the time go?
As I inspected the last box and its positioning to make sure it would be alright on the journey, I felt tired, and a part of me finally discovered what it really feels like to be on the door-step of becoming fifty years of age. Time truly counts, and keeps counting.
I’m a veteran when it comes to giving a daughter away during a wedding ceremony. I’ve been there, done that, and still have the proverbial tee-shirt hanging in the corner of my heart where I keep those things and their bittersweet feelings hidden from view. I should be merely happy, if anything, knowing that my youngest daughter has ‘driven her ducks to a good pond’, as my mother would so eloquently put it. And I believed it with all of my soul. Well, that is, until I helped her load her car while thinking, once again of always…
I still have a couple of months and figured I would deal with it when the wedding day arrived, but I was caught off-guard as I helped load those heavy boxes into her car. Some things needed to be moved three hours away to a distant town in another State ahead of time—I understand that. But I wasn’t ready for my epiphany of the hidden fragility concealed within maligned adverbs such as ‘always’.
She’s closer to her mother, that one is. They share everything. The little voice inside my head reminds me of what is patently obvious, even to others, most likely. But still, despite what I know and what is real in this life, (And what daughter is not slanted that way?) she is sincerely mine.
Subtraction from my household by a hairy-legged ‘Bama boy cannot and will not ever change that. A wedding, a move to another town, a career and even their own children—it makes little difference between what is and what will be in comparison to what always was. She will always be my tiny princess, twirling to music that only we can hear. (Her always; me only when I can glimpse it in her eyes) She will always have her mother’s looks, yet always my disposition; a Spiritual being born from within both parents and loved beyond the many miles that all-too-soon will separate us.
I’ll set her free—I owe her that and this is the time and place for me to do so. The happiness and feelings of a father are not the main course. They are not even issues worth considering. They merely meld into something that has to be. Daddy is neither Puff the Magic Dragon nor Peter Pan. He cannot remain frozen in time while his daughter grows up around him. I’ve learned that already. I’ve lived it.
Yet, always, I will pray for her. Always I will trust her to make the right decisions in life and learn from those rare but possible choices that will be wrong. Always, in a secret place that a daddy only knows, I’ll still see that tiny girl eating Oreos in the kitchen, asking a million questions, hiding no worries or cares at all behind an innocently beautiful smile. Always, always, I’ll always love her.
She had previously cleaned her room before asking me to help that evening; meticulously boxing keeper things, at the same time weighing them against those that were destined for a garbage bag. That was last Friday and today was trash-day. As I carried the bags out to the can and dropped them unceremoniously into the hopper, a soft sound emanated from the debris; musical, sort of, but with a broken sound at the same time. Peeking into the after-wash of a soon to be changing life, I uncovered an old music box, discarded like the Beatles not long after ‘Hey Jude’. I do not remember where it came from—as a gift or a singular purchase of her own, possibly. But the music it attempted to play was from a familiar tale, an old story from childhood days. The story of a princess who met her prince and lived happily ever after.
That works for me.