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.