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When we take long trips in the car, your brother - almost immediately - falls asleep. This approach to long trips is not without merit. But you just stare out your window, the whole time, looking with subtle urgency, seeing what you can see.

In parking lots, I scoop you up and you protest because, you’re right, you’re getting too big. You’re 6 today. But sometimes you let me and I, because your Daddy is consumed by last things, always wonder “Will this be the last time I ever pick you up?” I’m never sure, so I act like it is. To let you, when you are this little girl, burn into the memory of my hands. To feel the sweetness that can only exist in the midst of somber things. Endings. Last times. Never agains.

Heed this. The only way to truly hold someone is like you never will again.

I used to remind myself of this when you were a baby and your Mom worked nights. After rocking you to sleep – you were just a tiny flake of stardust – I would pause, let all my concerns settle like so many autumn leaves, and trace all your impressions into memories: the weight of you on my chest, the sound of your breath, the movement beneath your eyelids as you explored the country of your dreams. “Remember… this.” I whispered. And I do. I bet you do too. Hidden in the back of some dark closet in the basement of your mind.

The morning after you were born, a Saturday, I left to pick up my paycheck. I was in such a hurry to get back to you, I got a speeding ticket. The cop saw my hospital bracelet, asked about it, and my eyes misted over. I hadn’t fully digested what I was trying to explain: “I have a daughter. Born yesterday. I’m on my way back to the hospital right now. To see. Um. My daughter.” He wrote the ticket anyway. Said the speed limit applied to new Dads too.

Honey. Promise me you’ll never marry a cop. You’re definitely more of a jewel thief kind of girl. You deserve a man who will take great risks for you, who will wear black gloves, and shatter glass cases under the cover of night and dismantled security alarms. Only to sneak back to your loving arms with pockets full of rare stones and precious gems. Your husband will cover your ground with emeralds and throw sapphires in your sky. Please be careful. Take it slow, little girl. Wear the world like sparkling jewelry.

I want to teach you. I am so filled with wanting to teach you. I want you to read the hardest books by the most brilliant minds and not discuss them with others. People have the curious need to simplify your complexity, to tarnish the mysterious places where you shine the most. I want to warn you against discussing religion and politics. Avoid saving the world. John Cage said you’d only make matters worse. But here I am. I know. Embroiled in contradiction. Trying to save you.

So, sweet girl. You are 6. If anything then, just this: Keep staring out the window . Keep seeing what you can see. It’s a long, long trip. But we’ll be there soon enough.

Happy Birthday Elle Bee.

Reader Comments (49)

My son is 8 and very heavy and I still carry him downstairs every morning. I'm just barely able to make it without seriously injuring both of us, but I keep doing it because I'm not ready for that part of my life to be over yet.

Happy Birthday.

February 26, 2010 at 8:53 AM | Unregistered Commenterkdiddy

Very nice brother. Happy birthday to your baby girl. I feel you on that one.

February 26, 2010 at 8:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterOut-Numbered

Love this. Absolutely, unabashedly love this.

February 26, 2010 at 8:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterTwoBusy

Everyone's Dad should love them this much. She is a lucky lucky kid.

February 26, 2010 at 9:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterKaren Sugarpants

Nothing wrong with a "second story man" as a husband.

February 26, 2010 at 9:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterWilliam

Jack feigns sleep so that he can block out the Mountain Goats playing from your iphone. Elle Bee stares out at the mountains and wonders why you don't call her "Sweet Face" any more like when she turned 5.

Here's to hoping little girls stay little for a little longer.

February 26, 2010 at 9:10 AM | Unregistered Commentermuskrat

this is the most beautiful post i've ever read by you.

elle bee is a lucky little lady

February 26, 2010 at 9:27 AM | Unregistered Commentere

Your posts about L are my favorite, favorite posts. Not to knock the rest of the Bee clan. I like them and your posts about them too, but I think the daughter in me responds to these. Every little girl and woman deserves to hear these things from her father.

Good stuff, dude. Good stuff.

February 26, 2010 at 9:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterMaria

just awesome.

mine is not quite two, and she changes every damn day. she used to clap all the time, about EVERYTHING. the end of a song that i sang to her, the last page of a book, a clean dinner plate, even nap time (the girl is a little freak), and now she doesn't anymore. you wake up one day, and your world has become void of clapping and it's so sad. but it gets replaced with something just as great.

and i love how she's taught me to cherish every tiny baby minute. sounds like yours has too. :)

February 26, 2010 at 9:46 AM | Unregistered CommenteremilyG

ahh, birthday beautiful.

February 26, 2010 at 10:10 AM | Unregistered Commenterkate inglis

jesus, Jesus, you know how to open up a vein and get me weeping on my keyboard in the office at the third sentence. truly.

signed, tough guy

February 26, 2010 at 10:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterJon

to have a dad that blogged when i was a little girl would mean the world to me now, as an adult. wow. wow. wow.

and this line? *Hidden in the back of some dark closet in the basement of your mind.*? she does. she SO does. she always will.


February 26, 2010 at 10:35 AM | Unregistered Commenterleel

And now I am crying at work. Fabulous.

This post was so beautiful. That sentence doesn't even justify it. So thank you. Just thank you.

February 26, 2010 at 10:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterApril

I remember the last time my father carried me upstairs to bed... I pretended to be asleep just so he would.

Little girls never forget these things.

(Happy Birthday)

February 26, 2010 at 10:57 AM | Unregistered Commenterloren

My baby, my last baby, will be six on Sunday. She still lets me scoop her up in my arms but I'm sure the day is coming way too soon where that will change.

If I had your talent I might have written something like this, but I think I will read it to her instead. Beautiful. She is very lucky.

Happy Birthday to your Elle, and to my Jilly Bean.

February 26, 2010 at 11:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterFawn Amber

This was really, very beautiful. Your daughter is incredibly lucky to have a father who loves her so openly; so unabashedly.

February 26, 2010 at 11:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterJen O.

*That!* was beautiful...

February 26, 2010 at 11:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterLesley @Avalea

wow. I'm so glad that you write these feelings out because if a daughter needs anything, it's to be able to refelct back on how her father felt about her.

February 26, 2010 at 11:47 AM | Unregistered Commentermel @agirlnamedmel

"The only way to truly hold someone is like you never will again."

This post was beautiful. Happy birthday to your little girl. Seriously. This was awesome.

And so you know, I never say "beautiful" to guys unless we're pointing at boobs. So congratulations on being the first guy I've ever used the world "beautiful" to describe something he's done. Unless he made boobs.

February 26, 2010 at 11:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterMayoPie

Thanks for the tears. This was absolutely beautiful.

February 26, 2010 at 11:51 AM | Unregistered Commenterpamela

Happiest of Birthdays to my sweet granddaughter ...love her so very much.... you, too, for all the ways you express your love with the beautiful words you write.

February 26, 2010 at 12:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterMom

that was beautiful. i loved it. way to make me teary eyed.

February 26, 2010 at 12:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterBecky @TheRealBecks

Beautiful. Happy birthday young lady. You sure are lucky to have a dad who can write so beautifully what he feels.

February 26, 2010 at 1:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterLojo

I think your mom nailed it.
Happy Birthday Elle Bee!

February 26, 2010 at 1:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterHeather

I have many, many times *almost* left a comment. Today i had to.

I love your mind. That's all.

February 26, 2010 at 2:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterJust Me

It's my birthday too! This was the greatest gift ever. Thank you.

February 26, 2010 at 3:18 PM | Unregistered Commenter3b1m

Love it! You always capture what I feel with your words. I read to and with Harley til he was 12 and said he wanted to just read by himself from the on. I said no worries, of course then cried for a week by myself still thrilled I gave him the love of reading and was able to read with him so long. He's 18 now and no longer says, 'I love you' to anyone. I asked him why and he said, 'love isn't real'. I was panicked all week that something was wrong with him then I remembered the ideas and ideals I had at 18 and let it drop. Parenting...it's a trip

February 26, 2010 at 4:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterShalyn Manson

got no words to say........

February 26, 2010 at 6:31 PM | Unregistered Commenterwhite crow


February 26, 2010 at 8:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterJodi

Brought tears to my eyes. Lovely.

February 26, 2010 at 8:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterStaceylt

I have a daughter and like that's not enough to make me want to cry reading posts like this... I am pregnant and hormonally unstable! You are suppose to be sarcastic and mean and funny and weird...dammit! Next time post a warning for pregnant women.

February 26, 2010 at 8:33 PM | Unregistered Commentermrs.notouching

Delurking to add to the praise and tell you that that was THE most beautiful piece of prose I have ever read. I cried through the whole thing, then reread it HOURS later and cried again. Thank you for sharing that with the world.

February 26, 2010 at 8:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterChristina

Loved this post. Your daughter is so beautiful and she is so lucky to have such an awesome dad. Those words sound pat and insincere, but I truly, from the bottom of my heart, mean them.

Happy birthday Lucy!

February 26, 2010 at 8:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterCarabee

There's so much in here it's hard to comment. I think I've only commented a few times to you and the only long one involved how I felt when I read your sweet daughter's 5th birthday post. Crying again.

I have a doc in my computer marked BHJ quotes and I just added two more to it. Thank you, sometimes you have to descend into the pain to really appreciate what's stored in your memory that is so beautiful.

February 27, 2010 at 3:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterLucy's mom

I still carry my 7 year old twins. When my arms cannot hpold them anymore, my heart always will.
Love this post.

February 27, 2010 at 6:55 AM | Unregistered Commentertuesday

damn straight, about holding people. and marrying jewel thieves. preferably a few in sequence. a person needs a chance to perfect things.

now get your ass out of nice polite Canadian weblog awards. we Canadians don't write about jewel thieves.

February 27, 2010 at 9:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterBon

Oh, oh, I love the jewel thief bit. I think Lucy's going to be the jewel thief though, sneaking black clad in the window to her husband's warm arms, opening his mouth with a quiet kiss and dropping in a giant diamond :)

February 27, 2010 at 10:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterJo

Yeah, last night, I was nearly asleep, my body humming happily, endorphins and all that, and the jewel thief metaphor leapt into my mind. A covert, skilled husband who slips into mystery and non-conformity to reveal hidden treasures for Lucy.

You are damn clever. You the exact perfect word choice seem simple. Every novel, essay, newsbit, magazine, letter, expository piece that you've read must've sluiced itself through your marrow. You were born to write and also to give it.

It means so much to us, these candles and these dark bits that we immediately resonate inside of. Thanks for duplicitous truth.
Keep on keepin' on!

February 27, 2010 at 11:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterVernacular

a happiest of birthdays to your loveliest of girls. i still carry my 8 year old twins, as they beg to be picked up every day.

February 27, 2010 at 12:36 PM | Unregistered Commentermommymae

I understand the "lasts."

This was pefect.

Best wishes in your seventh year of fathering Lucy.

February 27, 2010 at 6:44 PM | Unregistered Commenterhef

Birthday beautiful -- thanks for sharing it with us...

February 27, 2010 at 7:31 PM | Unregistered Commenterelizabeth

All I know is that if my husband had written this about one of our kids, he would be getting laid right now. beautiful

February 27, 2010 at 9:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterJess


February 28, 2010 at 4:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterLucy

Tasty post here. Tasty post there. I think I like this here corner of the Internets and this here web-log

March 1, 2010 at 11:02 AM | Unregistered Commentermmmmmpig

Your daughter is lucky to have a father who can write such beautiful things about her. This is exactly the type of post that makes me love your blog so much.

March 3, 2010 at 2:04 PM | Unregistered Commentergiab

Well shit. I just got all welly in the eyes over this. I have a daughter too. It's intense.

P to the S. Came to you via your post on Stef's blog today. I'll be back.

March 5, 2010 at 2:05 PM | Unregistered Commenterseekingclarav

absolutely precious post. :) happy belated birthday to your daughter. she and i share a birth sign.

i plan to keep on reading! TY!

March 5, 2010 at 7:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterJae

I feel like I got a special treat today you letting me read about this.

March 12, 2010 at 4:13 PM | Unregistered Commenterkate

Yup. This is exactly it. This is that desperation to keep things immediate that comes with being a parent. Frantically grasping at every moment in the moment, trying to tie it like a balloon string to your finger, feeling the deepest sadness as it slips off anyways and floats away.

March 13, 2010 at 7:17 AM | Unregistered Commenteran other mother

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