Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sweet 16

A déjà vu moment washed over me as I sat on my front porch, the day of my son's 16th birthday.
Sweet 16 --- that magical day when the world collectively nods and confirms you are, indeed, growing up. Everything that 15 isn't ---16 is. My son’s birthday was one of those early spring days where the sun that had been hidden for too long finally shines with a brightness that seems to apologize for having held back. After I retrieved the mail on this day, the desire to soak in the sun beckoned me to sit for awhile.
Squinting as my eyes adjusted to the brightness, I caught sight of some elementary students on their walk home. The bounce in their steps made me smile with the memory it induced. Perhaps it was due to the special day, but my mind immediately landed on my birthday boy, to the time when he first informed me he could walk home on his own so many years earlier. For awhile after that declaration, I’d again sit on the porch after school waiting for him. Soon I would see him rounding the corner with a determined, confident gait. His young face would light up with an undeniable joy that only little ones allow to come over their faces upon seeing their parents. A few steps closer to home, he would break into a run, ending in a hug that would come close to knocking me down.
Too soon the preciousness of those days slipped away, giving way to after school sports practices, going to friends’ houses, and of course, simply knowing it's not cool to run into the waiting arms of your mother. And soon, a simple test will change the bounce of his step on the sidewalk to the hum of his engine in the driveway.
As I sat on my porch realizing how quickly the years are going, I could feel the pace of the world lapping at my heels. Still, I refuse to speed up. As a matter of fact, I resolve to try to slow down. Because I understand the little one I watched confidently walking home so many years ago, is every day, more and more confidently, walking further and further away.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Of Mermaids and Miami grads

A figurine of a Disney character may not represent for everyone the perfect college graduation gift. But for me, there was no other choice. The Little Mermaid’s Ariel had to be the gift given to my first-born daughter to commemorate the occasion of her walking across the stage at Miami University to receive a piece of paper that said she was officially, completely, without a doubt, now an adult.
The obvious connection is that it was the first Disney movie that secured my daughter’s passion for Disney princesses, as she watched it over and over and over. For a period of several months she would sing Ariel’s anthem to end in a dramatic finale of the line “…wish I could be….part of that …world” which would see her three-year-old body posed in a position identical to the animated Ariel who was perched on a rock in the sea.
I can see that image in my mind’s eye today, in spite of the woman’s body that has taken the place of the little girl’s.

Still, the main connection I think of while holding the mermaid figure all these years later is the theme of Ariel’s voice in the movie. The little mermaid, of course, traded her voice for the legs necessary to walk in the world where she wanted to go. And that voice is what I think of when I think of my daughter. Yes, the magnificent musicality of her voice is part of what defines her as she now entertains, singing songs beyond Disney sound tracks. But it goes deeper than that.
There is also her voice of compassion that shines through when a friend or even a stranger in a third world country is in need.
There is her voice of reason that has always been wise beyond her years.
There is her voice of change that will travel to Guatemala and places I cannot and probably do not want to imagine, simply for the reason that she might be able to make a difference there.
All these voices are inside one beautiful girl who is today learning to walk on legs that will take her into a whole new world.
But no matter where her voice… or her legs take her, I will always be blessed that she is, indeed, a part of my world.