Today’s the day.
You’ll walk across the stage, and shake the principal’s hand, and we’ll eat all the seafood and laugh and cry and take a million pictures. This is the tipping point, the entry into adulthood. Everything is in front of you. But, if you’ll allow your dad a few minutes, I just want to press pause for a minute to reminisce about what’s behind us.
I remember the steps up to Watson Clinic Pediatrics. I had been a father for 3 days. I didn’t understand car seats or copayments. Did you know there was a room for “well” kids? Not this guy. I’d say I was braving it alone, except I wasn’t, a tiny little girl in a Noah’s Ark blanket somehow surviving alongside me. Everything she did was amazing, from her toothless grins to the way her little fingers would seemingly tangle around mine. It was perfect.
Your first steps were more of a tumble, a bullfight with gravity that you never seemed to lose. I can remember the dress you wore, and your hair in a pigtail that only a dad could’ve arranged, cackling with your raspy voice as you bounced from couch to chair.
Do you remember the Longhorn Song?
Longhorn, food long on flavor
Steaks you can savor
Every day, as we’d careen into the HCA parking lot, you’d say “Daddy, I’m glad you didn’t sing the Longhorn Song” and I’d sing it in my absolute loudest voice, and you’d feign anger and outrage until the giggles won out.
Man, do I miss that.
Fishing. We’ve fished about as much as a dad and daughter could fish. Dock lights and mangroves. Snook and redfish, snapper and catfish and trout. Every time the boat would leave, you’d be on it. Every fish that came over the side was met with the question “is it a keeper?”
How about Harry Potter? I’ve always believed Harry and Ron and Hermione and Snape helped both of us through the divorce . . . there’s not a week that goes by that I don’t think about the time we went to Universal, and the wand choosing you somehow in that shop, and how you believed, if even for a moment, that it was magic. And how I never had any doubt.
Road trips to Alabama . . . Duck hunts and goose hunts and Exploding Kittens . . . Midnight movies and The Incredibles . . . Band concerts and Art shows . . . Talent shows and Hurricanes and Pixie Hollow . . . Up and The Grove City Motel . . . Space Camp and Gary’s Oyster Bar and Little Gasparilla Island . . . Sundresses and Sunsets, Georgetown and Charleston . . . Tornado warnings and first ducks and fishing in the rain and Pub Trivia and Knowledge Cards and Science fairs and Beymer town and Cinnamon rolls “the size of ya head” . . . Meg and Brittany tangling your hair in a fan . . . Gilly taking you shopping for clothes for school . . . Emy babysitting you over summer vacation . . . I remember boat rides, and birthday parties, and trick-or-treating and church . . . bunk beds and room makeovers . . . school dances and radio sing-a-longs . . . Horse drawn carriage rides and looking at Christmas lights every night . . . running around DC with your $2 flip-flops . . . being snowed in and snowball fights and “a ragtag army in need of a shower” and Hamilton and Broadway . . . shrimp boils and peanut boils and frying more chicken and crawfish than should be allowed, just to see your face light up . . . making you clean your room and do yard work and wash cars and load the dishwasher and say “yes ma’am” and write sentences . . . Linkin Park and Hannah Montana and Taylor Swift and High School Musical . . . teaching you to swim, and feigning disapproval at your bathing suit choices . . . taking you for a ride in a convertible and in the bed of the pickup and teaching you to drive in the woods . . .
You’ve conquered the hardest high school program we could find. You’re taking college and life by the horns. My little girl will hold up her diploma and smile a smile of accomplishment and pride.
And I’ll smile too, but more from the sidelines, your biggest cheerleader and fan . . . a dad with no clue, just like so many years ago in that doctor’s office, the little girl in the Noah’s ark blanket replaced by a young lady in an electric green cap and gown. A dad unsure of what’s coming next, but still certain that everything you do is amazing . . .