To my daughter, named in dream.

12 Jul

There are drawings in the notebook I have written this in, drawings my eldest daughter has left me. The heads are far too large, bloated even, but the arms and eyes are just right, perfectly placed almost, dimensions as they should be.

With these drawings I hold in my hands a memory I will never lose, a memory of irrevocable times, of words she’ll only say correctly from here on out, thoughts she’ll have beyond the pricelessness of her youth. How sparse! How magical-how brief and melting are these days.

As a newborn, an infant, I listened to her squalling with the frustration and helplessness of my youth, my inexperience. I pleaded with her nightly to stop screaming, to let me know, to tell me, hell, to turn colors so I’d know what it was that she needed, what it was that I was doing wrong. Her snurgles late at night as she slept, her broad smiles in the early morning, her disdain for closeness-all things I thought would never end, that I would never find the answer to.

Yet here we are. Here I sit, thoughts meandering to late night baths, lavender lotion slathered on chubby unused baby legs, the desperate coos of the of a young mother trying to entertain a cold, wet unimpressed infant. Bottles by the sink for 4 am feedings, spent torn between annoyance and awe. Your lips would droop as you fell off into sleep, your stomach filled, until the nipple popped from your mouth and your grip on my finger lessened. Only my arms to guide you gently back to sleep.

I grow weak for those moments, those days. I want to beg for a do-over, another chance to get it right, to appreciate and enjoy, to love you as you weren’t, to love you for what you were, not what you some day would be. To love you. To love the daughter I had given myself, the one who named herself in my dreams.

Soon, too soon Vivian, you will turn 4. The heads you draw will become smaller, more expected. Perhaps your grin will not be so broad for me. Your world will hurtle outwards into space, time, into the lessons that make up a life.

I am sad, and yet hopeful.

It is the mother’s place to hold tightly to the past-once the demands have lessened, she can stop and remember the coy moments spent laying on the spare bed, playing with the littlest of toes instead of remembering the innumerable loads of laundry. She can finally stop and recall the excitement of the new. How truly soft your cheeks really were.

I don’t sit sadly, maybe crying because I miss you already. It’s not because I am sad to lose you, as all mother’s will one day lose their daughters-I cry because I mourn what I have lost instead-what I gave up. Your first years gone in a retreating flash of time. Your silly years gliding away from me, already lost to you.

I will keep these drawings as i will keep this letter. For you. For your future, the daughters you will or won’t have, the days when you question my love for you. When you question the life I dream for you.


While I am not your father, my love is mirrored in the following.

All night long the hockey pictures
gaze down at you
sleeping in your tracksuit.
Belligerent goalies are your ideal.
Threats of being traded
cuts and wounds
–all this pleases you.
O my god! you say at breakfast
reading the sports page over the Alpen
as another player breaks his ankle
or assaults the coach.

When I thought of daughters
I wasn’t expecting this
but I like this more.
I like all your faults
even your purple moods
when you retreat from everyone
to sit in bed under a quilt.
And when I say ‘like’
I mean of course ‘love’
but that embarrasses you.
You who feel superior to black and white movies
(coaxed for hours to see Casablanca)
though you were moved
by Creature from the Black Lagoon.

One day I’ll come swimming
beside your ship or someone will
and if you hear the siren
listen to it. For if you close your ears
only nothing happens. You will never change.

I don’t care if you risk
your life to angry goalies
creatures with webbed feet.
You can enter their caves and castles
their glass laboratories. Just
don’t be fooled by anyone but yourself.

This is the first lecture I’ve given you.
You’re ‘sweet sixteen’ you said.
I’d rather be your closest friend
than your father. I’m not good at advice
you know that, but ride
the ceremonies
until they grow dark.

Sometimes you are so busy
discovering your friends
I ache with loss
–but that is greed.
And sometimes I’ve gone
into my purple world
and lost you.

One afternoon I stepped
into your room. You were sitting
at the desk where I now write this.
Forsythia outside the window
and sun spilled over you
like a thick yellow miracle
as if another planet
was coaxing you out of the house
–all those possible worlds!–
and you, meanwhile, busy with mathematics.

I cannot look at forsythia now
without loss, or joy for you.
You step delicately
into the wild world
and your real prize will be
the frantic search.
Want everything. If you break
break going out not in.
How you live your life I don’t care
but I’ll sell my arms for you,
hold your secrets forever

If I speak of death
which you fear now, greatly,
it is without answers.
except that each
one we know is
in our blood.
Don’t recall graves.
Memory is permanent.
Remember the afternoon’s
yellow suburban annunciation.
Your goalie
in his frightening mask
dreams perhaps
of gentleness.

7 Responses to “To my daughter, named in dream.”

  1. jen July 12, 2007 at 10:02 pm #

    ah, see. this is so lovely. and achy. it’s working, what you are doing, with this is what is rising to the surface.

  2. jen July 12, 2007 at 10:02 pm #

    working much better, say, than my own grammar. jesus.

  3. Missy July 13, 2007 at 8:43 am #

    Yes, keep writing.

  4. Bon July 13, 2007 at 10:35 am #

    dude, this is beautiful…letter, poem, thought behind it all.

    especially the part you bolded from the other’s words, the father’s words. i should hope to give so much to my son.

    the way you love your girls – with honesty and ownership of all that you regret, but so fiercely, too, so well – i love that, Thor.

  5. thordora July 13, 2007 at 11:03 am #

    I first read that poem when I was about 17 or 18 (It’s Michael Ondatjaae) and I fell in love with it-it was everything I wanted to be able to write.

    And now I realize, everything i want to be able to give my daughters.

  6. cherylann July 13, 2007 at 1:13 pm #

    I love this… from the bloated heads to the arms that we plan to sell. If ever parenthood was put into words, this is it. Always remember that you are not the only one who ever felt regret about wishing they enjoyed it more. *hugs* Thank you for putting it out there.

  7. Jason Dufair July 13, 2007 at 2:10 pm #

    One of your best posts. And an amazing poem. I love being a parent when I read your posts about your daughters, Thor. Thank you.

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