Twenty years and fifty-four minutes ago, after fourteen and a half hours of labor, my daughter entered the world. It was a stormy night, such that I’d been threatened that I might end up giving birth in the hallway, the hospital’s storm shelter. And I remember as first time parents, we did the crazy thing, and we stayed up all night partying with her, our new toy.
She’s been a study in contrasts, this girl. In the early days of Kindergarten, she got in trouble because she was so shy that she would not say her name when the teacher asked. Then came the drama bug, and these days not a play goes by that she won’t try out for. She loves the stage.
She’s tough and she’s soft at the same time. Determined to find her sport in grade school, she tried just about everything. She settled into Taekwondo and rode that train all the way to her fourth degree black belt, earned the summer after her senior year in high school at a world competition. She’s tough. She breaks boards and spars guys a lot bigger than she is. But she’s soft. Just this morning she busted into our bedroom at 6:30 with yet another cute kitty video. She has this sound that she makes when some cute animal or little kid melts her heart. Of course I can’t spell it. But it puts a smile on my face, just like that. It’s her happy sound.
Kitties. And tattoos. Today, to mark her 20th birthday, she got another tattoo. I joined her for the occasion. The man at the desk bantered with her and dropped the F bomb in his birthday greeting to her. He wore gauges in both ears the size of bangle bracelets. She liked him immediately. Her second tattoo, like the first, is an outward sign of her faith, the Latin “fiat Voluntas Tua”, “Thy will be done”. When she first saw the picture of the artist who would be working with her, she worried a little, because he looked scary. She likes kitties, you see.
One of the things about being me, and having her for my daughter, is looking at her and looking in the mirror. She is me, in many ways. And sometimes I have trouble making the separation of where I end and she begins. She’s me, but better. I work really hard to make that not be an unhealthy thing. But I’m proud of her in so many ways. She’s a poet and a scholar. As a twenty-year-old she has this rock hard, let’s live it kind of faith that leaves me in awe. Late last year she decided she wanted to go to Honduras on a mission trip over spring break. She knew no one else going on the trip. She got up in front of thousands of people to tell the story of the mission. She raised almost double what she needed in order to help at the expected level. And then she burned up every last minute of her spring break helping people.
She’s faced plenty of obstacles in life – maybe enough for a book someday. And she’s done this with grace and perseverance and determination. And no excuses. She’s my amazing girl.