Today I sat down to write you a letter and my mind started ticking boxes for all the things you’re learning and doing – all the moments I so desperately wanted to document in your letters, locking them away into a virtual cedar chest of sorts. You stand on your own now – a proud, but surprised look on your face, like you’ve just baked your first cherry delight and it didn’t taste horrible. Tick. You wave wildly, welcoming friends and family into our home as they come and go. Tick. You play independently, hug fiercely and throw tantrums with vigor. Tick, tick, tick.
Ticks of achievement, sure, but they sound deceptively like the ticks of a minute hand – rhythmic and continuous – a soundtrack that’s ever-present in our days together. And I realize that while you’re changing, so is our world. There is entitlement and fraud and greed and guilt and sadness and trial – all the things that have existed before us and will continue to exist as you grow older. But there is also kindness, Bee. And heart and soul and baked goods and great music and warm sunshine – silver linings among the many storms our nation is facing, has faced and will always face.
As a kid, I was an avid swimmer – often training year-round – donning the latest Clinique scent of Eau de Chlorine. It was a grueling sport, but one that taught me the benefits of hard, honest work. There were no shortcuts when you were a distance swimmer, only flags and lane markers and flip cards. No bad referee calls or changing terrain. Because in competitive swimming, the only variable is time. It’s your mind and your body and your soul and maybe leaking goggles and choppy waves. And then there’s time.
There was an oversized stop watch on the wall of the natatorium I trained in. It was weathered, showing its age through steam-filled cracks and rusted zeroes. The second hand had been repaired many times, wrapped in different hues of faded beige masking tape, each shade revealing tales of personal bests and championships and failures. Yet it ticked on, never-failing, and my coach often joked that if we we’d endured half the trials the poor second hand had, we’d be all-stars in record timing.
I still remember those words and I often think of them when the days are long and the sky is cloudy. I thought I’d grow up to be the second hand, Bee, ticking on through trials and hard days and bad headlines. And I am, to some extent. We all are. This world is resilient and beautiful and surprising – ticking and tocking and changing-yet-not-changing all at the same time.
That doesn’t mean we’re strong, of course. It just means we have a steady supply of masking tape in our desk drawers – cures that heal, ties that bond, halves that complete.
And I guess what I meant to say in this letter is that you are my tape. Your father is my tape. Your grandparents and aunts and uncles and family friends and community and teachers and faraway mentors – they are shreds of masking tape, piecing together the broken and mangled second hands in their lives.
And you will see many things in your lifetime – things I fear and things I hope – that will tick and tock until the world has changed yet again. My wish for you is this: that you often look for the tape. That you sometimes find the tape. And that you always be the tape.