I see you there, in the surf, splashing about with your sister on holiday. You are ten, going on twenty and as wonderful a person as a dad could hope for. Normally I write fanciful stories of when I was a boy. Stories about growing up in the hills and the silliness I did. Today, well…today is different. Today I want to tell you about when you were a girl.
When you were a girl with your sun-drenched hair and sun-bright smile, so full of promise and hints of the woman you will become, we vacationed every year at The North Myrtle Beach Travel Park the first week after school was out. It seemed to make the last days of May a whirlwind of activity that both flew and dragged by.
Finally we would load up the wagon and head south, sometimes watching the rugged southern mountains of WV, sometimes playing slug-bug but mostly you and Sissy with your heads in your I-pods or watching a movie. The inevitable choruses of “Are we there yet?” would make your mom and I smile a little on the inside, even as we scolded you for the constant haranguing. I’m sure you rolled your eyes more than once when I told you we would be there when you could see the ocean.
First order of business when we checked in was how soon we could go to Broadway at the Beach so you could build your annual Build-A-Bear creation. You always put such thought and care into your selections, a careful and emotive mind at work. I remember them all, even if I forget the names sometimes. You always managed to talk us into getting the baby version to go along with your new wolf/dog/dragon. Don’t think for a minute we didn’t know you were angling for a second stuffed animal instead of one. And, don’t think for a minute that we ever regretted it.
Sometimes, back at the camp, we would spend days at the beach or lounge in the pool. You and your sister always seemed to make new friends and were delighted to meet old ones from previous visits. You always were shy to start, but made connections there that were deeper than expected, often surprising in their intensity. I like that about you. I like that you are easily moved to tears, that you feel the world around you in such a unique way, that you are so present in your relationships.
I know you have struggled with finding your way sometimes, especially with the girls at school and learning to navigate the cliques and meanness of young girls. I wish I could tell you it gets better soon, but it doesn’t. The way you have handled yourself so far gives me faith that you will do well. You are stronger than you know, regardless of having the lowest pain tolerance in the world.
I see you there, when you were a girl, a bit self-conscious about being so much taller than your classmates and a little resentful of having grown-ups treat you like a much older girl. You have had to grow up a bit faster than the other kids and it makes you more of a leader than you know. That’s a good thing, but I know you sometimes wish the lady at the movie counter wouldn’t single you out with her questioning eye when we tell her you are still only ten.
You handle it well, mostly. That little surly pout only comes out from time to time. You wouldn’t be a kid if you didn’t know how to pout. It has also made you funny. I wish you knew just how funny you are, with your quick wit and easy laugh. You can say the most insightful and hilarious things. It shows how well you see people and what occasionally ridiculous things we are.
Watching you in the surf, I had visions of the woman you may become, a mom, an executive, a veterinarian. The images flashed by like the sun sparkling on the waves each one seeming full-blown and tangibly real. Flicker and flash of what might be spinning inside my head. And I wasn’t worried at all about any of it. Yes, I know there are hurts and struggles to come that will break your heart and try your spirit, but I’m not worried. You see, I knew you…when you were a girl.