It's a curious thing, recollection. Recalling those who've helped to shape you, altered or swayed you during your delicate moments.
I didn't think I was delicate. I was fearless and stubborn, had scab-picked knees and bitten fingernails. I thought I was an acrobat -- the best! -- and did death-defying moves on my swing set whilst in my key-hole bikini.
There's a Polaroid I have of myself from when I was 4 or 5, sitting at my dad's piano in a white dress and Keds, pigtails in my hair. At first glance I look slight and dainty, but if you look closely you can see the Band-Aids on my knees, the boldness in my stare.
At preschool I was bold enough to not use the bathroom. I still asked to go, I just went in to open a door that led to another classroom. I'd stand in the doorway, waiting for heads to turn so I could put on a show. It was always a dance and comedy routine, always silent. My teacher, eventually hearing laughter, would come in to yank me away. Her name was Miss Sunny, though despite her name I don't think I ever saw that woman smile.
My elementary school music teacher didn't smile much either. She had "teacher eyes" as my niece would say, a look that made your face freeze and stomach flip. In kindergarten I shoved a prized key of hers between her carpet and wall (getting it stuck for years), and received the teacher eyes quite a bit after that.
She assigned me the minor parts in plays, looked staid every time I approached her piano to belt out a song. She may not have noticed, but I noticed that the boldness in me stopped feeling so bold. It continued to fade in other delicate moments, was replaced with a shyness and hesitancy.
There is no being shy with my family. They have a way of unhinging you, stripping away layers you didn't know you had. Just my husband's voice is disarming. It is sonorous and smooth, weakens you in the best way. It is the only voice I've heard that is as handsome as the man.
He sings and plays guitar for our girl and she dances in response, laughs and claps like this is her happiest moment. I admire the life in her, the inhibition, the great joy. She is pure and unfiltered, gloriously free. And I let myself go, dance and sing with my family, act goofy and ridiculous. My daughter watches me with her shining eyes, learns that this is how it should be.
It occurs to me that this is a delicate moment. A moment to enliven and encourage, to build up my daughter, to instill in her surety that can't be taken away. When she is a part of moments that are otherwise, I will dance with her, sing with her, hug her and tell her she is more, so much more, than any meanness, cattiness, or skepticism she will ever receive. I must get this right.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." Duly noted, Eleanor.
Shine on, baby girl, and always be you.
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