Today is Fearless Maria's birthday. I wrote the following five years ago:
The first call came at 3:00 in the morning. My wife, already in the hospital on bed rest, was on the line. I was home with my son. She told me that I should be ready; the doctors were trying to slow things down, but it was possible that the baby was coming.
The next call came at 3:30. This time it was a nurse; she told me that I should get over to the hospital, because the baby was coming. I called my mother-in-law and told her to come over to watch my son. I got in the shower and started thinking about how my life was about to change.
About 4, my mother-in-law arrived. I was already dressed and we barely spoke as I headed for my car. It was snowing moderately - all told about 3 inches would fall that morning - as I slowly made my way down 694 to St. John's Hospital. I strolled in about 4:20, told the lady at the desk that my wife was in labor, and I headed for her room. It was strangely quiet. I walked right past the bassinet, not even realizing that my second child had already arrived. The doctor was cleaning up and my wife was lying in her bed, tired but happy. "It's Maria," she said. "She's right behind you - you walked right past her."
Then I looked and realized that indeed, there was a baby in the bassinet. My daughter had arrived at 3:50 in the morning. I missed the moment, but immediately went over to see her. A nurse had her bundled and told me that I could pick her up and hold her. I did.
For the next hour and a half, I held my daughter and tried to imagine what she would turn out to be. I talked to her and told her many things - how much I loved her, how happy we were, what a nice brother she had. I told her many things that morning. But mostly I wondered; who was this little girl?
Today Maria is 13 years old. I know many more things about Maria than I did that day, and she knows many more things about her father. When I wrote my essay initially, on the occasion of Maria's 8th birthday, I described her as follows:
Maria is sweet, silly, funny and amazingly smart. She has moments of amazing insight and some days she has a tongue like a lash. She's a good portion of the way through her childhood already. It goes by fast. She will change and grow in countless ways in the next 8 years, in ways I can hardly imagine. The one thing I know most of all; I am fortunate to be her father.
Five years on, much of that is still true. Some things have changed -- with increased maturity, she's less likely to let fly with a cutting remark than she was then. She's tried her hand at being a musician and a writer and has demonstrated significant talent in both. She's become an outstanding student. And her work ethic is top-notch, far better than mine.
You only get one shot at a childhood and Maria is making the most of hers. Things get more complicated as the years go on, but I'm confident she'll navigate it well. There's a song in The Sound of Music called "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria." While Maria is decidedly not a problem, at one point the following musical question is posed:
Many a thing you know you'd like to tell her
Many a thing she ought to understand
But how do you make her stay
And listen to all you say
How do you keep a wave upon the sand
As far as I can tell, you can't keep a wave upon the sand. But you can appreciate the majesty of it and the power it possesses. We can be borne back ceaselessly into the past, as Fitzgerald suggests at the end of The Great Gatsby, or we can be the wave. I suspect Maria will know which is the better course.