At 60, I didn’t expect ever to fall in love again. I thought that sort of euphoric madness that comes with infatuation was all in the past – reserved for younger people. But I was wrong. When she came into my life, the world stopped – and changed forever.
I first saw her in photographs. Someone showed me pictures – black and white – grainy photos. She was interesting, but the pictures didn’t do her justice. When I met her in person, I thought she was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. I was mesmerized. She was 7 ½ pounds and 19 inches of perfection.
At 60, she was my first girl. Perhaps not a bonafide miracle, but for me she was. My eternal valentine.
We named her Scarlett. And Paloma-Maria after her two grandmothers.
That very night I began keeping a journal for her.
I wrote: You are just a day old now. You are my ONLY girl, which makes you precious beyond measure. I will keep this little journal of our first years together. I will tell you what amazed you and what delighted you. Your first words will be here. Your first steps. I will do all I can, as will your mama, to make sure you are exposed to all the influences that will make you an extraordinary woman – one who is intellectually curious, adventurous, brave, full of self-confidence, but also empathetic and kind, a woman who is strong, and gentle, too, both a warrior and a poet.
Three years have passed now. People have started asking me how raising a girl, at least for me, is different from raising boys. I say, “Don’t know much, but let me tell you what I didn’t know.”
Until I had a girl, I didn’t know about spontaneous politeness and gratitude. Returning from the beach she said: “Thank you for taking me to the beach.”
Until I had a girl I didn’t have a child who thought I had super powers. She handed me scissors and a paper and said, “Can you make me a bicycle?” I said, “How about a rectangle?”
Until I had a girl I didn’t know you had to dance to the opening theme song of Dora the Explorer and Elena of Avalor. Scarlett’s motto is never miss a chance to dance.
Until I had a girl I sang the lullabies. But she’s not pleased with the way I sing them so she often takes over.
Until I had a girl I didn’t know that when you took her for a walk around the neighborhood in her big stroller, you had to take her dolls, too. I didn’t know that dolls left behind would be “sad.”
Until I had a girl I wasn’t awakened this way, singing Happy Birthday.
I couldn’t have been any more moved if it had actually been my birthday. Such technicalities don’t matter to her, though. People need to celebrate their birthdays at least once a month – to appreciate the simple joy of just being alive.
Until I had a girl I didn’t know there were so many colors in the world. She has 300 around her easel. She likes to paint vermillion crocodiles. To me they are just collages of triangles and squiggles, but I put them on the fridge anyway, and brag about her Picasso-like potential.
Until I had a girl I never got my nails painted. One day she got her mom’s polish and wanted to give me a manicure. I resisted. My wife shot me that “Don’t be a Neanderthal” look. I said, “Okay, one hand.” I forgot about it and later that afternoon I suddenly realized I was likely the only guy at the gun show with autumn mist nails. A man there noticed and said, “Next time – go camo.”
Until I had a girl I never had a child so empathetic. She wants to know how I’m feeling, if I’m happy or sad, or if my anything hurts and if I might need a doctor – and lucky for me, she happens to be one.
Until I had a girl I didn’t have a child so young so self-aware. I asked her if she was mama’s girl and dada’s girl. She said, “I’m Scarlett’s girl.” Gotta love that.
Until I had a girl I didn’t know that Valentine’s Day was so important. It’s her favorite holiday, along with Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and July 4th. But truly with her loving heart, Valentine’s was made for her. It’s a week away, but she’s already popped the question: “Dada, will you be my Valentine.”
Yes, always and forever. And your mama’s, too. After all, she did give me you.
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Stories From Texas, UTRGV Digital Library, The University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley. Accessed via https://scholarworks.utrgv.edu/storiesfromtexas/
© 2018 William F. Strong. Uploaded with permission of copyright holder.