One more to go ’til the big 4-0 and then y’all can resume your regular scheduled programming. Of course, that’s a tale for next week. This week there’s only one birthday I care about – and that’s for my little princess – my sweet Aria Leigh; who today turns seven.
Seven years old really makes it all official. They grow up so fast.
If that was a bitter pill to swallow when Colin turned this same page two years ago; it makes today even more bittersweet – as I look to my Little Princess, Daddy’s Little Girl, growing in leaps and bounds with every day. With the end of her First Grade career mere weeks away, and the knowledge that the increasingly shorter spell of Summer that looms ahead will likely be consumed before we know it, I aim to slow it all down. Alas, pure folly. Soon – Aria is headed to a brand new school – the town’s second Elementary School (covering Grades 2 through 4) where she’ll rejoin her brother who over the past couple of years has paved a nice path for his little sis. And while they’ll walk those same halls for one more year – after that – he’s on to Middle School. This time refuses to stay tethered no many how many ties I lash it with.
I can’t slow time and I can’t bury the bittersweet truth. My little girl is growing up and despite the fact that I can vanquish the mightiest of bedtime beasties whenever her sweet little voice travels forth in search of her fearless father, there is nothing I can do to stop, or even slow, the march of time.
That’s the bane of parents everywhere. Sure, we’ve lassoed high technology and have managed to somehow snap, shoot and film a real time play-by-play of our progeny’s lives, but aside from sneaking a sojourn on Snapfish or tip-toeing through those elaborate scrapbooks that every Mom is always two to three years behind on, there’s nothing more we can do to hold them still. Where eternal life has vexed everyone from the Incans to the Los Angelese, it takes a proud Papa to realize that it’s not the Fountain of Youth we quest for ourselves – it’s what we desire for our children. To keep them forever young.
It’s a fool’s errand and the sooner we realize this, the better off we are. That being said, we may have to take our medicine but it doesn’t mean we have to like the taste.
One way to chase the bittersweet is to focus on the delights of each day. And sure, life gets crazy and we find ourselves blitzkrieged on all sides by an ever-growing litany of problems, issues and concerns… Hell, I know this as much as anyone having spent a full year (and not that long ago) seeking gainful employment while striving to keep our kids insulated from the Big Bad Real World concerns. So, I write this in a bid to remind myself of what’s most important. We can’t freeze time but we can slow it a bit if we just sit for a spell and soak in their lives… their interests… their fun.
And what I’ve noticed with Aria, as she closes in on seven, is how similar she is to me. She is a girl after her Daddy’s Heart. Sure she’s a Princess – pledging allegiance to Ariel, Briar Rose, Tiana and whomever else dons the Disney Tiara but she’s also got an affinity for Mario, Luigi and the rest of the Rogue’s Gallery that populate the Mushroom Kingdom. Besides, she can always take heart that at the beginning of each day, Princess Peach is gonna’ find some way to get herself captured by that brute Bowser. While her brother Colin enjoys playing a game or two with Dad, it’s Aria that seeks me out often to play alongside. As a lifelong video game fan, it’s fun to see these brave new worlds come to life in her imagination. And these days she’s found great joy exploring The Legend of Zelda with me – my personal fave.
In addition, she’s got a blossoming theatrical streak – and most recently, Aria and Colin asked to try out for the local summer musical – Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka. Both kids landed parts as mischievous squirrels – alongside Andi as Mrs. Bucket and me as the smarmy Phineas Trout. And already, I can see Aria taking to the stage with glee; a girl after our heart.
But it’s not all fun and games. There is that genuine affection that she carries for dear old Dad. She has the innate ability to know when a day has taken my spirits down a notch – how fleeting those days may be. She just uses her sixth sense to intuit it, and then seeks me out and wraps me in the biggest hug her tiny arms can muster. And in that embrace, my cares dissolve. That’s the magic handed down among Little Princesses. They all possess the power to brighten the gray.
Over the last few years, I’ve also noticed a wicked comedy streak grow in her. She lives to laugh and laughs loudest at herself. She cracks herself up and in turn gets me giggling. She’s cut from my cloth – always looking to bring a smile no matter how foolish the sentiment we’re chasing. Life’s way too short to let doom and gloom rule the day and she has this way of just subverting all that and leaving us laughing.
One of my favorite memories with her echoes one of my favorite movies. So many times, I’ve glanced over at her and spied my mirror image. One breakfast, I was going through the normal motions. Taking a bite of toast, a sip of juice, a mouthful of coffee, talking to the kids, exchanging good mornings with Andi, with all the assorted little tics scattered throughout the everyday routine. Out of the corner of my eyes, I spied my doppelganger as Aria pantomimed my every move. It was like that great scene in JAWS, where after a rough day, Brody bonds with his youngest boy over dinner – the child copying every move the Chief made. Here was Aria aping one of my favorite scenes from one of my most treasured movies – all without ever having seen it. And once again, she applied that unbreakable hold upon my heart. Of course, she knows nothing about JAWS but tells me often that her favorite stuffed animal – Hello Kitty – once starred in the movie PAWS.
There’s that silly side again.
In a few short months, Aria takes another step along her road of life. But before that, on this day, she says goodbye to six and makes her mark on her Seventh Year.
No matter what the day may bring nor the number of years that burn from the calendar, she’ll always be my precious Little Princess.
My beautiful little girl.
Happy Seventh Birthday, Aria Leigh.