I was at my daughter’s swim meet last Saturday, looking down at the masses of girls around the pool. A bunch of blue swimsuits here, a bunch of red ones over there. Every head covered in a black swim cap. You might be able to pick your kid out by the specific way she walks or by that thing she does with her hands. Or, if you squint, you can maybe make out your last name printed on her swim cap. But otherwise, really, it’s hard to tell one from another.
Up close everything is different. The girls sit beside their parents. They talk about their races, ask for snack money. S. sits down next to me chewing a soft pretzel. Here I can see her full face: her freckled nose, her bright eyes that animate as she talks. From this short distance, I can also hear her sweet, musical voice through the crowd’s murmur; it has a lightness and bounce that still defies the weight of everything.
Looking around, each of these girls appears as she truly is: a precious, one-of-a-kind being. And each unique girl you can see is illuminated by the arcane light of her parents — a fire that burns with the blind raging faith that your child is unlike any that’s even been, like any who ever will be. And, more importantly, that your child is a rare, special being who will — somehow, in some way yet to be realized — shine in this world, and be showered with recognition and praise for simply being the wonderful thing that she already is.
The girls finish their snacks and head back down to the pool. There, they fall back in with each other — slipping seamlessly into uniformed herds, indiscernable throngs. From this long-view, you can see their real future. Cars in traffic. Bodies in cubicles. Shoppers in line. Gravestones in rows.
Keep her close, I tell myself. Try to remember to keep her close.