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What she was, and where she’s going

I’ve been asked to purchase a Keyshia CD and I don’t know how to respond.

I’m not exactly familiar with her music but I understand she’s huge with third-graders and beyond, a realm of music that I have chosen to take my self out of, a part of something that, in my old age, I find irrelevant.

The “20 on 20” is really not my thing but the kids love it. Then again, when my kids tune in, I turn off, racking my Skullcrushers around my head as my Pod cranks. Yet, when I was 11 or 9, I would have loved it. Although I tend to think the music that rattled my parent’s teeth was a bit more radical (my Alice Cooper vs. their Mantovani, my kid’s Jonas Brothers vs. my Black Flag), it’s still generation vs. generation and I say, bring it on.

Not sure I would have loved the Disney Channel when I was at that age (I handle about 90 minutes of that banality and then I’m done) but “20 on 20” would have been my channel and so, I handle it beyond an hour and a half.

A parent’s prerogative, right?

I have to admit that I’m not a fan of Keyshia’s music and really, my own connection to her output came from a Bob Edwards interview on NPR about a month ago, when I was driving Middle Child to a birthday party. Edwards was absolutely glowing with Keyshia as was MC. By the time we’d arrived at the party, she was certain she wanted a Keyshia CD for her birthday.

That, she said, and a pair of Heelies. Anyone know where I can get Heelies cheap?

Anyway, as MC moves from third-grader to tween, I recall the years before, the child she was while I watch the child she becomes. A bittersweet process every parent knows: remembering what she was, combined with the joy of where she’s going.

Keyshia or not, she has ballet and soccer and choir and 4-H. Whether she’ll work out better than I did with Alice Cooper … well, she most likely will, she’s my “A-type” child and, as we all hear from our oxygen and imagination smothering media, she should do just fine.

All I have is this and the then, a bit I wrote five years ago …

Was an April day yesterday, a February day today, and that’s how March is. Something one day and then something else the next, seeming never quite itself and yet, something more; a month of paradox and complexity, the hint of potential hidden beneath an inch of snow, the silent struggle for survival within a dying season’s slipping grasp on a present that’s snatched away by the inevitability of another beginning.

I kissed her cheek and told her. “Happy Birthday, Pixie! You’re four-years old today!”

“I’m Four, today,” she replied, brightly, taking a moment from the cereal bowl in front of her, happy more for the kiss than for the news.

MC went back to her breakfast, distracted, as if conjuring some distant memory, what it was like being two, what it was like being born, what it was like being four the time before. Half-happy, knowing, a bittersweet greeting to another baby step towards the world of us, we, the fretters, the toilers, the serious.

An old soul, she realizes her days of fantasy and imaginary friends are numbered, like a March snowflake, wet and fat and falling fast with promise, potential. A tiny light crystallized, to be carried on the wind and then, silently disappear. Too soon checking sums on hours worked and what’s left over after the bills are paid but there’s now, she knows, four no longer, three and a thousand other things to see today, a thousand things to be.

She stirred her Honey Nut Cheerios, humming softly, sometimes sticking the hooves of a toy Pegasus into the Oh’s, oblivious to the snow outside and her daddy watching her.

Both lost in our focus, our commitment to that instant, that then, that there; all of those and nothing else. She’s thinking of being in the milk, beneath the floating Oh’s, Piscean, swimming in her Marni perfection, dark blue and briny deep, inscrutable, silent, beyond Gollum’s grasping fingers and singing the almost imperceptible tune hummed while her spoon swirls around her bowl.

Across from her, Mister’s head is down; he’s scooping heaping spoonfuls of cereal into his mouth, trying to ignore that it’s his sister’s birthday. He wants it to be his birthday, but if he asked and had something decent to trade, she’d give up her day; she’s just not too concerned about the whole thing. Presents, sure, cool, give her those and let her have a stuffed alligator and the rest of it is yours. Let her swim in her milk, let her see with new eyes somewhere where she has not been, show her something new or let her stir this spoon through her universe.

Breakfast ends and I clear the table, rinse bowls and spoons, put them in the dishpan. MC and Mister go into the living room to watch “Blue’s Clues” and this day, the first day of MC’s fourth year, unfolds like almost every day before it, unremarkable, hackneyed even, kids in front of the TV, dad at the sink doing dishes, the kiss and remark about turning four already a dim memory. Four years ago, this day was monumental; my life changing with another life beginning and every moment of that day is chiseled into my mind like the carefully hewn hieroglyphs on the walls of an ancient tomb. That day I looked out the window from my wife’s room into an unremarkable early March sky, thinking how I would remember that day forever, promising that I would not take that moment for granted.

Lifting my gaze from the suds in the dishpan, I looked out the window to see that it stopped snowing, the sun struggling through the cloud cover to cast light on the thin coating of snow covering the lawn. Time for change, the caprice of March, renewal lunges onward as winter slips once again into the past. Time for a new promise, to not take another moment for granted, not just marking new growth up on the wall but scrawling it indelibly in my mind, MC is four and it will not pass unnoticed.

It was nine years ago when I looked out that window into that dim, March mist and five years ago when I wrote that essay. Nothing has changed (other than her) and my life still clings to the moments when my MC was born, more than standing at the Cliffs of More, more than floating down the Danube, more than watching the Sex Pistols at the Underground in Atlanta. Indeed, I could watch all of my children grow up and assume I’ve been everywhere the universe was supposed to take me — and I’d die happy.

She can have her Keyshia — I’m sure she doesn’t suck anymore than my own musical tastes at the age of nine (indeed, I’d love to see what Bob Edwards thinks of Alice Cooper) and she can have her Heelies. I just want my memories: Blues Clues, Keyshia and Alice — whether down the rabbit hole or here, where we watch another March of downy flakes fill our walkways with wet, fat and potential.