On the morning of Clara’s 10th birthday, I heard her quietly climb out of bed and step into the hallway. I half closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep, but I saw her fuzzy shadow as she peeked through the crack in my door. When she was convinced I was sleeping, she tiptoed back to her own room and shut the door, turning the knob as she did so it would close silently without a click. I smiled to myself thinking about how it all felt like such a 10-year-old thing to do. She didn’t wake up in our bed, screaming, like those first few years. And she didn’t come bounding onto my chest like a wild animal hungry to face the day and eager to open presents and eat cake like she had as she had gotten older. Now she slipped out of bed into a room that was all her own, checked to be sure that she was truly the only person in the house that was truly awake, and then closed herself off to do whatever it was she had planned for the day.
I crept up to her room and stood for a few moments in the hallway with my toes lit by the light escaping from under her door. I listened and tried to imagine what 10-year-old things could be happening on the other side. I heard the shuffling of boxes on her white desk. I could make out her voice occasionally rising to a murmur as she discussed some secret plans with herself. There was the ruffling of bed sheets and blankets and a cabinet being opened and closed.
Finally, I knocked gently and she padded over to the door and let me in.
As she hugged me around the waist I rested my chin on the top of her head and looked around the room. She had made a clear spot in the center of the floor and was surrounding it with all of her favorite things. There was a stack of fabric samples that she was arranging by color and lining up into a drawer under her captains bed. And there was a vibrant pile of soft yarn which she was organizing into another drawer. Behind her were spools of thread and various sewing tools that she was placing inside a sewing kit. All of these colorful objects that brought her such joy to work with, cirlced her like friends. She had faced her 11th year on earth with such an inspiring energy and a desire to create things and share them with the world. I took a deep breath and wished her a happy birthday. And then sat down across from her so she could explain all of her plans.
She introduced me to everything by name. It was as if each roll of yarn was a special character in her own personal story, and each yard of fabric was a little neighbor that slept in a drawer under her bed. She told me about the aprons she would make and who she would give them to and how the patterns represented the unique personality of each person. She told me about the tiny dresses she planned to put together for all of Lydia’s little dolls and the pockets she would construct for her brother to carry his transformer toys inside. She was full of such enthusiasm and fire. She would gasp as she uncovered another piece of cloth and her eyes would close and her arms would clutch it to her chest as she breathed it in and told me about its glorious future. All of her plans. 10-years of planning. And now, here she was, reveling in it.
I smiled and ran my hand down her arm and told her how proud I was to be her father. And then I softly picked up some of the yarn and respectfully laid it to rest inside the drawers under her bed. I did so solemnly and with a fullness in my chest and throat. I ran a hand over my face, pressed the heels of my hands into my eyes for a second, and I quietly kept my secrets to myself.
I was remembering something I had seen once as if in a dream. A time when this captains bed had been mine and I had filled these very same drawers with my own treasures and ambitions. I was 10-years old, and I was going to do so much! I was 13-years old and someday I was going to create something beautiful. I was sixteen and I had projects and ideas and dreams upon dreams upon multicolored dreams stashed away in drawers under the bed. Life was eternal. Youth was infinite. Time did not exist. And then one day I woke up and heard my 10-year-old daughter peeking through my bedroom doorway and I wondered just when all that had changed.
“This is a lot of projects you have planned.” I rested my chin in my hands and leaned forward to watch her more closely. “Let me know if I can help you work on any of them ever,”
She smiled and hummed a sort of happy tune, “Oh, I will.”
“I’m afraid I don’t have time for very many projects of my own anymore,” I sighed. “Well, I have these three small ones that I’ve been dabbling with for the past ten years or so. I’m pretty proud of them, but I wish I had more time to work on them.”
She put another stack of fabric in her drawer and glanced up at me distractedly. “Oh, then let me know if I can help YOU with THOSE someday.”
“Oh, you are,” I said.