On an October trip to Chicago, Erica text'd a short message to her assembled family hovering around Midway Airport. "Baby Bird has landed". It made us all laugh.
Baby Bird has landed indeed.
She's 20, beautiful, talented, smart and, as always, taking on the biggest challenges she can and wondering why it sometimes hurts to do so. She's being successful despite odds that would bring a lesser person to their knees. Her pure toughness masked by her soft beauty, blonde hair, youthful glow. Simultaneously a grown women and the prime of youth.
She's Baby Bird, my little girl and a father's dilemma.
How do I get to know all these parts of her? How do I honor her for what I can see and know of her. Can I risk being wrong or stupid or forget something that matters to her and that I've failed to recognize? Can she see past my self absorption, thoughtlessness, forgetfulness and just plain bad timing, my missing of hints or not seeing needs she has put out there for me to pick-up - and I've simply missed.
Can I be honest and tell her that I don't really understand how yet to be her complete father? Can I tell her how I love her in a way that she feels honored, not just well taken care of. It takes time and above alI, the courage required of any true honesty. There's a lot to understand that I don't even know yet.
I have favorite images of Erica, they trump all others. She's about 2 or so and she's playing with her life-long friend Diane on Morse Avenue. Her wispy white blond hair is askew, their noses are pressed to a window screen and they are being goofy as 2-year-olds are. They are tightly framed and shot from the outside looking through the screen. I've hung that picture every where I've moved, I always will- for me it's pure Erica, it reveals a certain essence of her that I've always seen and not necessarily understood. In another, she's a pre-toddler, lying on her stomach, head held up, resting her weight on her elbows a look of pure determination in her eyes, revealing a glimpse of who she is to become. I hang that picture where I can see it every day if I'm paying attention. These images are hints of the Erica I see today- beautiful, determined, exploring, confused, unsure, unrelenting, loyal, kind, smart, seeking answers and finding some. Questioning values, decisions, parents, meaning.
It's a big job being Erica today, but I know she's up to the task, she always has been. I'm afraid, that unless you're an artist you won't understand what she done in the last 2.5 years. Unless you've looked at a blank page and listened to a bunch of words about the "problem" and sat in a room with other kids who have been drawing from birth and you've chosen to put yourself in this place and teach yourself to draw and think like a designer and confront the demons of your creativity and originality and truthfulness and doubts and short comings and understanding and passion and potential, then you have no idea what she's accomplished. She went for broke in a program that accepted 27 kids for upper division after 2-years, of slogging hard work and murderous hours. Somewhere around 30% of those who begin as freshman, make upper division.
She's got real grit our Baby Bird and I feel all my expressions of admiration and pride wanting, I simply don't yet have the words.