“Daddy, watch what I can do.”
This is exactly the kind of statement Emma, my 6 year old, makes before she jumps from the coffee table to an adjacent sofa in the living room. Or power slides 12 feet across the dining room floor, or goes off in to a non-choreographed dance for a half an hour that would have brought rain if she were a Cherokee, or simply runs around the house with no purpose beyond the whims of her 6 year old body. That is my Emma. It’s what she does.
I think about how she used to be such a shy little girl and not a rain dancing daredevil. More content with clinging to any free leg or burying her head between my 3rd and 4th true ribs. Only in the briefest of moments, without anyone watching, would she allow her timid shell to crack just enough to show her true side.
Now only a few days away from turning seven, Emma has had a break out. She has shattered the shell that once kept her head firmly planted on my shoulder and her voice barely above a whisper. She has emerged as the girl who races to the front door or up the stairs, the one who is making funny faces, jumping down the steps, and giggling at her own humor. She is the girl who can light up a room with her smile, make us all laugh at the dinner table, or parkour through the living room and over the dog.
Every day I watch what she does and shake my head. I am at times, in disbelief, or laughing, or being mesmerized by what she does. She leaves me wondering how in the world she came to be this way until I realize she reminds me of someone else who had the same effect on me. My dad.
He had all of the personality Emma gives to us on a daily basis. His demeanor, his lack of inhibition, the goofiness (in the best sense of the word), his quiet thoughtfulness, his sense of humor, Emma has it all. My dad was prone to “ice skating” in his socks on the hardwood floors. He wasn’t above jumping in to a pool with all of his clothes on. He was never too serious, never without a joke, and completely unforgettable because of what he did.
Emma likes to tell me she remembers him but I know she doesn’t. I think she believes she “remembers” him because she really wants to but she was less than 12 weeks old when he died. She barely can remember where she took her shoes off let alone remember back to when she was a newborn. She “remembers” everything we have told her. She “remembers” the pictures I have shown her, the anecdotes I have told, and she “remembers” the memory we have built up about my dad.
Yet, I look at my 6 year old, who will be turning 7 in a few days, and I see the characteristics of the man she never knew. The little girl who was too shy to show her face now wears fake mustaches and talks in gibberish just because it’s funny to talk in gibberish. I hope he’s watching…and laughing.
“Daddy, watch what I can do.”
It seems I can’t help but watch. Lord knows I’m either going to be entertained or I’m going to need to call 911. I’ll turn to watch because it has been so much fun watching her for the past 7 years. I’ll turn because she can make my sides hurt from laughter watching her leap from furniture, breaking out in to a spontaneous dance, or making funny faces. Because she can make my heart melt when she tells me she loves me out of the blue, or when she puts her arms out for a hug, or when she displays the same qualities and characteristics of the man she never really knew.
The truth is I will always turn to watch my Emma because I don’t want to ever miss a moment of who she is and what she does.