Monday, March 29, 2010

Red Letter Day

This story is not about geocaching.  It's a story that has taken 21 years to tell and is not finished even today.  Twenty one years ago today, my wife and I were clueless.  I don't believe anyone is totally prepared for parenthood, no matter how many books they've read, no matter how many pieces of advice they've received.  We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, yet we had no choice, because that path had been chosen earlier.  At 8:52 PM, on March 29th, 1989, our first born made her appearance into the world.  My wife's OB let me deliver my baby girl.

I have a bundle of thoughts running through my head today, too many to keep straight, so excuse me if this rambles a little bit.  She did the normal things.  If I could find her baby book, which is buried in a hall closet, I could probably tell you the exact date she showed her first tooth.  I know it was sometime around her first birthday.  I watched her crawl for the first time on Christmas Day that year.  I got lucky enough to videotape it, but was still unprepared for it, because I can remember thinking, "Wow, she just crawled over here, and I didn't even note it in the video."

Her favorite book to be read was Moo, Baa, LaLaLa, a silly little book describing animal sounds.  Did you know that three singing pigs say "La La La La?"  Well, that's what the book says.  Later we graduated to Dr. Seuss's ABC book.  It lends itself well to singing, so I ended up doing that a lot.  "Big A, Little A, what begins with A?  Aunt Annie's Alligator........A...a.....A."  A third favorite was Love You Forever.  This was probably my favorite, more than hers, but she liked me to read it to her at bedtime nonetheless.

As she grew, she developed new tastes.  I introduced her to camping, taking her up for a night in the mountains near Lake Arrowhead.  The following spring, we went camping at Joshua Tree National Monument.  Every spring and summer after that until she reached the age of 13, we would go camping somewhere.  One summer, Daddy forgot the tent poles, so we ended up buying a backpacking tent to sleep in for a week.  Have you ever slept in a backpacking tent with a 6 year old who thrashes around in her sleep a lot?

She also developed a passion for music and started taking violin lessons when she was in kindergarten.  Several years later, she joined the Claremont Young Musicians Orchestra and played with that group for a total of 10 years.  She is now playing in her college orchestra.  Because of this love of music, she toured Europe after her senior year in high school and was fortunate enough to play in several cities in Austria and Italy.  She attended Interlochen Center for the Arts one summer and also Tanglewood during another summer.  She's gone back as a camp counselor twice at Interlochen.

Braces, proms, homecoming dances, high school graduation, college applications were all a part of her life.  We went on road trips to different colleges, scouting them out.  She fell in love with one college on one of the worst days the campus was having, with torrential rain and wind and bitter cold.  I told her that if she liked it at its worst, she definitely would love it on other days.  Today, she is in her third year at the University of the Pacific, located in Stockton, CA, over 300 miles from home, too far away to give her a hug in person today on her 21st birthday.

21 years seems like a long time, yet it goes by so quickly.  Where once was a giggly little girl, now is a confident grown woman, less dependent upon her Daddy now to soothe skinned knees and other assorted aches and pains.  And although I can no longer hold her in my arms and carry her around cradled in the crook of my elbow, she is still my baby girl, one who I love very much.  As any parent would say, I have enjoyed watching her grow up, helping her to explore my world, and will now enjoy watching as she spreads her wings and explores her world.  I'll end this with a quote from my favorite book that I got to read to her when she was younger.

I love you forever,
I'll like you for always.
As long as I'm living,
My baby you'll be.
Happy Birthday Sweetheart.


Karleen said...

Sheesh, go and make me cry why don't ya? Some day it'll be my Paul and me saying similar things about our beautiful 10-month-old who's napping blissfully in her room right now. What a great post. Happy birthday to your "little" girl. :-)

DogMom said...

Awww....Congratulations, and happy birthday to WebsDaughter!

RDOwens said...

Very touching.

Your quotation at the end from Love You Forever is meaningful to me. During graduate school a professor read that. I recall my eyes tearing up. I love the book.

My wife, otoh, cannot stand it. She cannot get over the fact that the mother used a ladder to climb to the window of the boy/man.

There's a compromise. Bob and Jack, a Boy and His Yak is the same story told in not such a bothersome way. Jeff Moss, author of Rubber Ducky and co-creator of Sesame Street wrote that one. Another of his poems hangs outside my classroom.

Anyhow, congratulations and God bless.

Webfoot said...

I have a hard time today reading Love You Forever without tearing up. I gave a copy of it to my mother on Mother's Day several years ago. It sits proudly on her bookshelf next to her bed.

chaosmanor said...

That's a great photo of Musicmaker :-) What a bright smile!

We have three kids and six grandkids, so I can certainly relate to a lot of what you wrote. When Bethany was born, we'd been married almost five years, so you might think that we'd had plenty of time to get our act together... wrong! We were just as clueless, and probably more so. I've never thought of myself as an especially good father, but our girls all turned out pretty well, in spite of me ;-)

I don't think we had "Love You Forever", but we had the others you mention. Our favorite bedtime book, as I've mentioned to you before, was "Fox in Sox". Others that were read a lot included "Uncle Shelby's A-B-Z Book" and "Where the Wild Things Are," plus anything by Mercer Meyer. I also started to read 'The Hobbit" to them, but gave up after a couple of chapters. The older two were bored, and Liann just couldn't keep it straight. But she enjoys reading fantasy now.

The best thing we can do as parents is give our children the tools, teach them how to use them, then get out of the way and let them do what they will, but cheer them on, at least a little, and be there if they ask for advice. We don't hover over our girls, but they know they can come to us with just about anything, and we'll have something helpful for them. They were adorable as kids, but I am a lot closer to them as adults.

Steve Natoli said...

How poetic. You ought to submit this piece to your local paper. It is beautiful, Paul.