“That Got Me To Thinkin’…?” “Daughters” Chapter 104
By Bruce Williams
Only a 13-year old girl can wrap up so much admonishment, frustration, angst and impatience into one monotone, monosyllabic word delivered each morning as my cue to grab my cup of coffee, drop the newspaper, get up out of my recliner and go warm up the truck for school.
“I want to go to the football game with my friends.”
“What football game?”
“I dunno—some football game.”
“Well, where is it?”
“I dunno…Addie’s mom is taking us.”
“Addie…and some others.”
This is the tenor of our conversations now. There’s boys—hovering on the periphery. I’ve seen them from afar, waiting on their bikes for me to vamoose when I drop her off to walk around the Town Center with her friends. I’m aware of them…all peach fuzz and poor judgment. I loathe every hair flip of them.
Is there a meaner creature alive than a teenage girl? No one can dress you down more quickly or ruthlessly. My poor wife gets it the worst. I catch her looking at old pictures on her phone of a smaller Lou—all sparkles and smiles. The one that used to follow her around with her thumb in her mouth ending every endearing question with a rising “Mama.” Now Michelle’s walking on eggshells, careful not to startle the doe and send her flittering into the woods, otherwise known as her room.
I hear her in there, laughing uproariously as she FaceTimes her friends. Sometimes I just listen outside for a hot second. Her laughter makes me smile, even if it’s not for me and my dad jokes anymore. I’ll still sneak up and hug her from behind to let her know I love her and that I’m always going to hug her. She doesn’t cringe or fight it, and I even see a trickle of a smile sometimes—that little girl again that isn’t merely abiding all of us.
When her brother drops by her room to check in, she doesn’t screech at him to, “GET OUT!” as much any longer, so some of that patience coaching might be sinking in. I tell my wife that daughters always ‘circle back’ in their 20’s once they mature, then really lean-in once they have kids of their own. That doesn’t help too much. For now, Lou’ll accompany my wife to the mall to purchase clothes for her at H&M or American Eagle—wide legged, ripped jeans to go with her Jacqueline Smith curtain bangs and Converse high tops (hey—the ‘70’s are back!)
For now, I’m there for math homework, shelf hanging, spending money and rides. She’ll still let me take her to The Rock—just us—for cheese bread and salads like we did when she was little, and if I ask just the right questions I can get her engaged and laughing and she’ll forget that adults are awful and gross and the worst for a minute. It’s funny to love something so much and to know that that’ll have to be enough for a while, whether you like it or not. To be sidelined, an observer. I love the anecdote my friend John Shriver told me about when he’d get reminders on Facebook of heartwarming posts from years past of him and his daughter when she was little and he’d forward them to her.