« Teachers | Main | Dead Hooker Sutra »
Saturday
Feb262011

7

You asked me to dance—it was the last dance of Sweetheart Night—and my initial instinct was to turn you down because, Sweet Face, your daddy is a writer, which is to say that I prefer to be no one. I don’t like to appear. I go to great lengths to avoid long gazes and conversations, all the tricks of being duped into being someone, opting rather to hide between the lines in the shadows of words.

But your eyes are big and blue and you know how to blink them perfectly in a way that leaves me no choice but to dance the last dance with you at Sweetheart Night. So I scooped you up in your pink dress and blue necklace—you had a flower in your yellow hair and red ladybugs in your newly pierced ears—and all 54 pounds of you clung to me, tightly, with the force of that old need that motivates all the best characters in all our favorite stories to become more than what they are, gazing at stars.

Holding you, swaying there in the school cafeteria of red arrow pierced hearts, my self consciousness fell away and I was able to just hold you, swaying there, in circles. I began to hope the song would never end, for this moment to somehow stay—imagining that perhaps the secret of living inhered in an endless dance with you.

I wished someone would take our picture. Film us. Capture us in time.

But, closing my eyes, I soon realized that what I wanted to remember was bigger than our image. We were something else that night. Not just a father and daughter to be snatched from time, frozen in it. We were time, the result of it, the empty place where the endless past and the infinite future collide, exploding in a slow dance of breath and beating hearts.

I had an interesting conversation with your brother the other day about when he was 5 and you were nothing. Where were you? we wondered. How could there have ever been a world without you? It’s completely resistant to being fathomed or imagined. Because you are so here. You are so triumphantly here. I should know because I was there when you arrived, pink and screaming. And I was there when you took your first drunken steps. And when you began to articulate a world inside your house of mad babbling, I was there. I heard it all. You screamed DADA from the bathtub and I became a new song.

And when this enormous blue and green eyeball opened for the very first time, we were there. Do you remember? When, together, we tricked the nasty green witch, stole all her magic, and returned it to the trees and the grass and the clouds in the sky? Do you remember when we lined up all the scientists and sentenced them to death? We built a little fire and, for as long as we could, we kept it sheltered from the rain. But the wind always wins, all fires end, and our bones fell to the ground like snowflakes. Do you remember? When the sun exploded to keep its deal with the dark? We were there. We were never not there. Entangled in this web of our slow dance at Sweetheart Night.

Remember this, I told myself, breathing slowly and letting our dance scar my memory. And then I prayed that you remember it too, that you would hide our dance in a secret treasure box in the basement of your mind. You can always find me there. Look for me.

Happy Birthday, Elle Bee. The whole world is singing that you’re 7.

Reader Comments (33)

i'm at a loss for words. this is so special. happy birthday to your beautiful and very lucky daughter. i hope today was wonderful.

February 26, 2011 at 3:57 PM | Unregistered Commenternic @mybottlesup

What would we do or be without them? Happy birthday to your beautiful girl.

February 26, 2011 at 5:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

sigh. this is so fine.

February 26, 2011 at 5:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterslouchy

happy birthday to your little.

in that "look for me," i hear Whitman. sometimes the line between the song of myself and the song i want to sing to my children...i do not know it. i have nothing else to give.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.

February 26, 2011 at 5:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterBon

beautiful, simply beautiful.

February 26, 2011 at 5:17 PM | Unregistered Commenterchristine

Damn, BHJ. This? Yeah. Pure excellence.

February 26, 2011 at 6:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterTJ

This is perfection.

-Ellie

February 26, 2011 at 8:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterEllie

Sweet jesus.

Don't ever stop writing.

February 26, 2011 at 8:38 PM | Unregistered Commenter@hristine

I loved this as much as "5" and "5" is my favorite of your writings about Elle Bee. To have seen you dancing with her would have been a treasure ... as your writing about it is unforgetable. Your love for her is as beautiful as she is. Happy Birthday, Sweetheart! Hope #7 is your best one yet!

February 26, 2011 at 9:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterMom

She will so deeply remember. If you do nothing else, ever, to be there with her like that is so awesomely where it's at.

(Anybody ever tell you you can write? You should look into that some more. Lord have mercy.)

February 27, 2011 at 1:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterLaurie

"...You screamed DADA from the bathtub and I became a new song." Tears. This whole piece was absolutely beautiful but this one sentence moved me so...I lurk frequently but rarely comment and I think I now understand why...your words have me feeling so many emotions that it is sometimes difficult for me to articulate them without sounding like a blithering idiot. I simply cannot wait for your book. Please don't EVER stop writing.

February 27, 2011 at 3:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterZandria

My baby boy's seventh birthday is the 26th too. Nearly born on that secret day that warps time and allows a birthday only once every 4 years.
I don't have the words for him, like you do for your daughter though. But it's the same...

February 27, 2011 at 7:02 AM | Unregistered Commentermisty

*weeping*

February 27, 2011 at 7:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Happy Birthday to my little Princess. I remember this day 7 years ago like it was yesterday.
Now you are a beautiful little girl with so many wonderful opportunities ahead of you.
Love Grandpa.
Your words bring tears to my eyes BHJ.

February 27, 2011 at 8:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterGrandpa

I wish I could write this way about my own daughter, because this is what I'd say.

February 27, 2011 at 9:48 AM | Unregistered Commentermosey

Beautiful. Thank you for this.

February 27, 2011 at 9:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterAmelia

She sparkles.

February 27, 2011 at 10:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Flamingo Room

This almost makes me want a sever-year-old girl, too. I'll keep her at 4 for a as long as I can, though.

February 27, 2011 at 10:41 AM | Unregistered Commentermuskrat

You might just be one of the best fathers in the whole wide world. Believe that.

February 27, 2011 at 11:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Oh, crap. First day of cycle. Mushed.

February 28, 2011 at 1:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterJo

I think that's the most beautiful piece of writing I've seen here so far... and that's saying a lot. Thank you for that.

February 28, 2011 at 10:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterMeaghan

This one? This one read like Life.

February 28, 2011 at 3:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterRenee

Hey, have you seen this?

(http://www.npr.org/2011/02/27/134056034/first-listen-the-mountain-goats-all-eternals-deck&sc=nl&cc=mn-20110228)

February 28, 2011 at 10:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterBetsy

Betsy FTW!

February 28, 2011 at 10:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterBHJ

goddammit.

You blow my mind every time.

March 2, 2011 at 8:31 AM | Unregistered Commentermmrilla

What a lovely, lyrical love letter for your daughter... I do admire how you string together words and phrases to create such vivid pictures.

March 4, 2011 at 7:45 AM | Unregistered Commentertracey

I just wanted to let you know that this weblog is being featured on Five Star Friday - http://www.schmutzie.com/fivestarfriday/2011/3/4/five-star-fridays-140th-edition-is-brought-to-you-by-haruki.html

March 4, 2011 at 10:43 AM | Unregistered Commenterschmutzie

A breathtaking post.

March 4, 2011 at 11:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterHarriet M. Welsch

wept like a willow reading this
because I don't have a titanium heart...

Bless you BHJ, wherever you are

March 4, 2011 at 11:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterRene Foran

It's a funny thing about all those red arrow pierced hearts. You never figure yours will be one of them.

I'm late, but: a very happy birthday to your beautiful daughter.

March 8, 2011 at 5:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterTwoBusy

When I was 7, my erstwhile, drunken father picked me up on his Harley and took me to the Girl Scouts father/daughter dance at the local community college. Then only thing I remember about it is the texture and pattern of the linoleum floor. And that my father's beard smelled like whiskey and pussy, but I didn't know that then.

Here's to your daughter and the lack of that experience. Seconds and inches, right?

March 8, 2011 at 8:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterShanna

So lovely. Happiest of birthdays to your sweet girl.

March 10, 2011 at 10:46 AM | Unregistered Commenternicole

My daughter is almost 7. My son is almost 12. This took my breath away. How do you manage to be so hilarious in one post, and then so awesomely sensitive and poetic in the next? I really dig you, BHJ. And, happy birthday to your girl...

March 15, 2011 at 10:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteph.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>