Imprisoned in this little crib (cage) is my beautiful baby daughter, barely 10 mths old. Already she relied upon pacifiers and teddy for comfort. She couldn’t sleep without either one, and many a night I spent relocating her “comforters” so that she’d stop screaming and fall back to sleep.
It took several years before we could wean her of her “duppys”–the name she’d adapted out of the British term for pacifier — dummy. Finally, at age two, her Daddy decided enough was enough. So while I hid in the far bedroom, unable to stand her cries, her daddy flushed her very last “duppy” down the toilet. She stood beside the toilet sobbing for hours. It was heartbreaking–for her, and for me. That evening she slept through the night–not so much because she was “over” her dummy — but because she was exhausted from crying half the day. She slept while I lay awake fretting over whether we’d done the right thing.
As the years passed, new “comforters” arose. For almost a year she’d only eat PINK food -corned beef, salmon, shrimp, candy, marshmallows, mashed potatoes with food coloring. She grew out of the pink food obsession but not the PINK obsession. She’s still obsessed with pink clothes, pink handbags, pink walls, pink nails, pink lipstick. But she’s incorporated new “comforters” into the mix that aren’t all pink. Recently, she’s fixated with buffalo bites and reruns of “Criminal Minds.”
These seemingly trivial idiosyncrasies are part of my daughter’s makeup, her character, her trademark. They are the traits that I love, the difference that makes her mine.
Today my daughter has been on my mind. The first day back to school for many, and I’ve been replaying those firsts: pre-k, kindergarten, 1st grade, middle school, high school. Always a day of excitement and nerves, for us both. Recently I found a photo of my daughter and her Daddy as he’s taking her to her first day of Kindergarten. It’s a memory to be treasured–a simple moment in time. They’re holding hands and as she stares up to his face I see- love, trust, and adoration. I wish we had more photos like this-photos that predate her Daddy’s paralysis, photos that remind her of how he would skip to meet her. And not just photos, but memories, more memories of the days when he rode horses, and jumped fences, and spent Saturday afternoons at the track.
My daughter’s life has been too riddled with sadness. Losing both her father and step-father at an age when most young girls are worrying about nothing more than prom dresses, and dates, and grades. Life has been anything but fair to her. And her “comforters” have often taken dangerous turns, but through all her grief there’s remained a fierce strength and resilience. The same resilience and strength that enabled her to stand all day long waiting for her “duppy” to resurface. My daughter, though still so young, could teach us all about survival. She’s lived it.