From the very first time daddy saw her big brown eyes, he knew there was no coming back from the stare she was fixing on him. Daddy knew she meant business and he knew he was in the most amazing kind of trouble he was ever going to handle.
She was born on a Friday. Born in the middle of an unrelenting heat that was holding the days hostage and keeping her mama from sleep while daddy kept busy with worries and the hope. A hope that wasn’t so much a secret as a gathering of hushed smiles from all the corners of family interest. The hope of a daughter to follow the son.
Daddy wanted a daughter.
Women had always been his world- from the ones who raised him to the ones who loved and cursed and cooked and sang and befriended him. And so, he wanted a daughter just so he could understand how the miracle of those curls and curses and the lovely of their lilt behaved from the very beginning of things.
Mom and dad decided against knowing. They decided to forego the ultrasound and dress the arrival of their next child to an old school welcome. The nursery would remain stark white, the linens neutral and the talk a wonderful mystery.
The time grew near with mom praying for term and dad perfecting the bemused response to never ending queries from family and friends.
Daddy had two names at the ready. Sean if it was a boy and Arianna for a girl. His crystal ball was a rootless wander to which he had already fallen in love with either possibility. Blue or pink, come what may.
When the day came, it was pink and the name was announced as Arianna, and daddy cried. He cried while holding her and he cried while handing her back to mama and he cried on the drive home to shower and change before making his way back to the hospital. He cried more than the stubborn clouds hanging inside an unforgiving summer heat.
Eighteen years fell away as if leaves of a tree at season’s turn.
On her special day, she had a drivers test to pass and daddy assured her it was going to be just fine. He bored her with Zen, telling her that the way mattered more than the aim. He made her laugh with stories of his first driving test. He reminded her that breathing was way more important than the results of any test.
When she passed, he hugged her and he planted her with a great big kiss and he let her have it with an “I told you so!” And then he tossed her the keys and told her to drive them home. They had a birthday party to get to and she had a plane to catch on Monday for college.
He watched her drive them home and he busied himself with the millionth reminder checklist that began with call me every night but then he stopped himself and just let her drive the car. It was her future she was driving towards. She had the keys.
The sky was blue but the day was pink. Eighteen years seemed not enough.