There you are amongst the crowd. One of thirty freshman.  And my breath is taken from me. For a moment, the briefest moment, everything else on my mind fades away. The whirlwind of stress that has been the background beat for the last several months is now muted, and my focus is on you.  My daughter. Maya.

There you are amongst the crowd. One of thirty freshman flittering about for pictures prior to homecoming. But you are not flittering. You are my little girl, but you are not little anymore. My whirling dervish, my often naked chaos creator, the little one who was too scared to stand up and  “graduate” with her pre-school class, my  troublemaker who smeared tuna salad in the baseboard heater while we slept, my little girl who it seems has now grown up almost overnight.

There you are amongst the crowd. One of thirty. But my eyes are all on you. For a moment I let go of my fears… Boys and boyfriends, parties, alcohol and drugs and wanting to protect you from having to make challenging choices and decisions.  But  fears and stress are washed out in your glow. Because you, tonight, are radiant. Radiant not just in the dress  (which paradoxically I find way too adult), but in the way your carry yourself now amongst your friends, in the smile that seems to come so naturally on your face.  To the quiet confidence you are developing.

There you are amongst the crowd. One of thirty. Standing tall, in those heels…Heels!? But tonight you don’t  appear to be a child  playing grown up wearing grown up clothes. I will worry later about clothing choices, tank tops, short shorts and the like. But for now, I am just appreciating you for the young woman you are becoming.  Not for the clothes you are wearing but for the choices you are making. As a freshman in high school with a sense of right and wrong. For an independence that I often take for granted. More than the “adult” clothes you are currently wearing, it’s the evolving mature approach you have towards life that has me filled with pride.

There you are amongst the crowd. One of thirty. Less than a year and half from a driver’s license, yet also a year and a half from 7th grade.  My mind races for thoughtful advice, wisdom, guidance to give you.  But I was boy, and a dorky awkward one at that. This leaves me very little, if any,  practical experience to draw upon.  But there is intelligence and thoughtfulness in your eyes despite the mascara and eyeliner that frustrates me so. Thankfully this  will continue to help guide you along the way.

There you are amongst the crowd. One of thirty.  Cameras, flashes, parents, spiral staircase, photos galore.  Personally I find the whole scene way too much.  A ritual spun out of control with this increased pomp and circumstance around homecoming. But this is just another of the many paradoxes of the evening. Because this evening has given me a chance to see you with your star shining bright.

There you are amongst the crowd. One of thirty. I walk away, back to my car. The controlled chaos still going on, but I have seen enough. And as I head home,  a sense of melancholy start to work its way in my chest. I breathe a bit, and focus my thoughts inward trying to find its source. And I’m whisked back to the pool in Palm Springs with you screaming “No more scunscreen!”.  I’m walking into the bathroom seeing you grinning ear to ear with permanent marker as your facial makeup of choice.  I’m in our basement,  you naked once again,  climbing up and down the support pole.  We are in your bedroom,  both struggling to stay awake,  lying together in the big chair,  reading our favorite book in the evening light, as you fall asleep in my arms.   For the briefest of moments I’m back with my little girl.

I return to the present, a smile still on my face. My baby is growing up, whether I want her to or not. The truth is I couldn’t be prouder of the young adult you are becoming.  I don’t know where your spirit and drive will take you. But as my little girl fades away in the rear view mirror, to be replaced soon by one literally sitting in the driver’s seat, I can not help but feel this moment as bittersweet…

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