Reflecting on a daughter…
21 Years of Amy (to borrow a phrase). I can’t remember what it was like before her, really. I have memories of pre-Amy days, but they’re all colored with the knowledge of her coming. I even have a couple of pre-birth letters I wrote to her, though I didn’t know her name. Too much drama in me, probably, but it seemed good to speak to her even then as if she were all grown up.
My first words about her when she actually arrived during that 4 a.m. hour August 26, 1988 were–predictably–“She’s beautiful.” Frankly, I was surprised. Not that I didn’t expect her to be beautiful, but I hadn’t expected to feel it so clearly, so powerfully. She was beautiful, and her birth is one of the most cherished and powerful images in my imagination. Birth: the most natural, most miraculous thing in the world. People showing up who were not here before, beginning the long, human journey even as others slip away. My father had passed away the previous month; just then, I was well aware of life’s rhythms, and determined not to take anything for granted.
Every morning, she woke with a smile. I took ridiculous amounts of pictures and videos, lingering in close-up for long periods, as if looking for whatever secret she possessed. Had anything ever held my attention so completely? I watched her sleep, watched her eat, watched her kick her chubby arms and legs, watched her cough, even watched as she wailed. Mesmerizing, frankly, as if she was a creature from another planet. She was a dream of mine, this daughter who so completely overwhelmed my expectations. Occasionally (though it was Anjie who did the bulk of the work here, I’m sorry to say), I’d hold her in the middle of the night in an old bentwood rocker, her face on my shoulder, her small mouth slack with peaceful sleep, her weight on my arms and chest. I can feel her there still if I try, and Anjie and I sometimes reflect on how we miss that weight in our arms.
Frankly, I worried about our next child, if there ever was one. How would I find love for him or her, when Amy had cornered the market?
Now’s she 21, or will be tomorrow. She’s on a flight just now, headed for her senior year in Cincinnati, where’s she been preparing for a life in the theatre. Yep, her too. She’s a fine actor with a bright, incisive mind, has a great eye for talent and direction, and is determined and strong. And of course, she’s still beautiful. When I tell people she’s an actor, sometimes they ask if that worries me. No, I tell them, it excites me. She’s pursuing her heart and her giftedness in the company of great friends and family, all of whom believe in her completely. And she’s not tricked that it will be easy. And as any journeyman artist knows, the journey is unpredictable and the endgame unknown. Therein lies the adventure, the danger, and the joy of this gift we’ve been given. Therein lies the dependence on the God who gave all the gifts in the first place: life, hope, strength, faith, and above all else, love.
A few images: The first time she kissed me. We were playing–perhaps she was between a year and 18 months, hard to say–and it was as if a thought appeared, a brand new thought, and with great intention and bright, bright eyes, she leaned over and planted one on my cheek. I don’t know who was more pleased by it, her or me, but I was pretty wrecked. Then her small, 3rd-grade frame silhouetted in light as she sang for the talent show at Soos Creek Elementary, me playing guitar behind her. I only zeroed in on what was actually happening once during the song, and promptly burst into tears and fouled up whatever I was playing. And oddly, I’ll always remember what I missed–Amy singing the lead in Rags at Interlochen (the famous arts camp in Michigan) between her high school junior and senior years…how did I miss that? But when I heard the recording (and when I hear it still), it thrills me. Stunning. The years in sports (soccer and softball), the early acting roles (that beautiful Our Town–you, too, Casey), and, of course, the broken-heart moments that are most precious to fathers like me, the moments when you’d do anything in the world for your girl.
Amy, for all the images in my heart, for what you have taught me about life, for the grace you have given me as I have floundered along as a dad, for all the goodness you will bring to those who know you in the coming years..
You are still–obviously–beautiful.
And don’t forget…there is One who loves you infinitely more than I.
Hard to imagine…