Hey there, Violet.
I’m writing this in your chair at the kitchen table. It seemed like the right place. This is where you have your Cinnamon Toast Crunch every morning. This is the place where you draw in your doodle books and play Animal Jam on my computer.
I’m sitting where you sit, glancing at all the stuff on the walls, at the construction paper portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. that you made when you were in Kindergarten. I love that thing so much. I hung it in our kitchen, but that’s only because I didn’t want the big museum people to spot it. If they ever do, I know they’re going to want to hang it up in their vast halls, between the Monets and the Renoirs and all.
I’m inches away from the cheap flowers in the big Mason jar in the center of the table. The ones that I always tell you guys not to mess with so you don’t tip the water out and fry the TV remotes I keep sitting there. It’s a dumb place to stash them, I guess, but hey: it’s better than losing them down in the canyons of the couch.
Everything I see right now reminds me of you. Of your smile that shoots through heart like sugar lightning. Of your tears that plop down on the scuffed old linoleum and make me grab you and pull you tight. I see spots where I have stood and hollered at you for crazy crap you’ve done. Or maybe even when you hadn’t done much at all, but Dad was tired and worn out and hangry.
All of it, all of my world, from this old kitchen straight through the front door and on up the road — straight up to the mountain tops where the eagles and the wild turkeys and the deer look down on our town — it all makes me think of you, kid. I see the sun shining certain days and before long you cross my mind.
I can’t believe you’re 8 years old now. I can’t wrap my head around it all that well. Yesterday I held you in my arms as your mom and me looked at each other in the hospital room where you were born. It was the 21st of January, 2009. We had the TV on while you were landing in this world. We were watching the first African-American man ever to be elected U.S. President be sworn in. You were born in the middle of that magic moment.
That staggers me. It seems almost too good to be true. Your mom and me, our lives were changing for the infinite better at the very same time that the world was, too. I know I’ve told you that story a million times already. (Haha, I guess I’ll never stop.)
This year, your birthday was pretty special too, huh? And I knew it would be: As soon as the Women’s March on Washington was announced a few months ago, your mom wanted to take you.
“It’s her BIRTHDAY!” she said to me. “Do you realize how unreal and cool that is that we can march together on her birthday?!”
She was so excited about the prospect of it all, and so was I.
We’ve both raised you so far to be someone born on love and reared on empathy. You took to that right away. Beyond any hope or loose game plan we might have had for you, you long ago proved to us that you have a shining spirit and a legendary heart.
You ask all the right questions about life, about people, and what’s important when it comes to peace and equality. You get upset at all the injustice that comes across your young radar. And, best of all, you seem to think that you can make a difference in this sad, beautiful world just by being a cool person to everyone you meet. You seem to think that kindness and smiling and including kids you don’t even know in your games at the park can somehow help change the world in some way or another.
Do you know what that does to your Mom and me? I know you really don’t, kiddo, and that’s totally fine. Let me give you a hint though, okay?
It allows us, through all the strange and difficult times of divorce and blues that have come down these past few years, to understand that we have been luckier than we ever dreamed possible. Because of you. Because of Violet, who’s turning 8.
Down to DC you went on Saturday, to march your march. You took your time, too. You held on to Mom’s hand and went with the spectacular flow of women (and men and children!) from all over the world who were right there with you. You looked at all the different faces moving alongside you, and smiled your epic smile at as many as you could. Heard their words as you moved through their chatter and picked up on the positive pure human electricity that comes along at times like these.
I picture in my mind where you marched, mere blocks from the White House, your whole life ahead of you, and my heart nearly explodes with love and hope.
You know, as your proud dad, I picture you in there someday. All up in that White House.
I really do.
I’m sitting here in your seat at the kitchen table right now, baby, but if I close my eyes I can imagine me sitting there in that Oval Office chair: I’m spinning and spinning around and giggling and crying my old man eyes out.
And there you are, saying, “Dad, STOP! You’re embarrassing me! Go get ready for the ball tonight!”
I won’t stop, though. No, no, no. Just a few more spins for a proud papa. Just a few more teary laughs for a guy who knew all along that there was magic in his little girl’s heart.
Happy Birthday, kid.
I love you.