Saturday, April 20, 2013

Fathers and Daughters and Coming-of-Age

Stone and Silt is, at its heart, the story of a family. One that has tender moments, shares joy, faces peril, and experiences loss. In other words, it's like every family I know, to one degree or another.

Nikaia, the main character, is a sixteen-year-old half-native, half-white girl. She's coming to grips with becoming a woman while in the midst of the worst jeopardy her family has ever faced. 

As a father of three daughters, I can empathize with the feelings of Nikaia's Papa. Seeing your girls mature and stretch before your eyes is at once heartwarming and terrifying.

A few years ago, my oldest daughter graduated from high school. I thought about these coming-of-age passages, and wrote down some thoughts:

It's a common sight every June. Auditoriums, gymnasiums, city centers, and hockey arenas everywhere fill up for countless cap-and-gown ceremonies.

I don't think much about it. Even my own graduation didn't leave a particularly strong impression with me. But last night, I see my little girl walk alone down the runway. Eyes shining, diploma in hand. Amidst the frenzy of my shutter, I hear the proud applause, the cheering of her classmates.

And I know I'm witness to a cleaving. With every step, her high school life - her life with us - retreats ever so slightly behind her.

I think briefly of all those steps, from her very first uncertain ones, to today. She embraces her teary Mom. In a moment, her little sisters run up to give her congratulatory hugs.

While she leaves high school with awards and accolades, I'm most thankful for less showy things. Her kindness to people and animals. How she calls me "Papa". Her beautiful smile, and loud laugh. The respect she shows me and her mother. Her ability to make jokes at her own expense. The way she charts her life, unapologetically and head-on. I describe her as fearless, but I know that's not true. She does have courage, and determination well beyond her years.

So now she has graduated. I will never hear the horns of "Pomp and Circumstance" in the same way; it's burned into the soundtrack of my life's memories.

In a few weeks, she'll be off for the big city. More "big girl" steps. Moving her into her dorm. Watching as she meets the new people entering her life. Driving away.

Sometimes life comes at you gently and lazily. Other times, like this week, it leaps at you and pulls you hungrily into new places.

Congratulations, Celeste. May you always walk with angels overhead.

Stone and Silt is scheduled for release in the fall of 2013.