To be the father of growing daughters is to understand something of what Yeats evokes with his imperishable phrase 'terrible beauty.' Nothing can make one so happily exhilarated or so frightened: it's a solid lesson in the limitations of self to realize that your heart is running around inside someone else's body. It also makes me quite astonishingly calm at the thought of death: I know whom I would die to protect and I also understand that nobody but a lugubrious serf can possibly wish for a father who never goes away.
I have been told by the third grade teacher that my daughter Poppet is reading at middle school level. Yet if I leave Poppet a note in block letters telling her to feed the dogs I will come home to find the dogs have been ... given a swim in the above-ground pool, dressed in tutus, provided with hair weaves. What I will not find is that the dogs have been fed. 'I thought you wanted me to the dogs,' says Poppet whose school district is not spending quite what D.C.'s is, thanks to voter rejection of the last school bond referendum.
She serves me a piece of it a few minutesout of the oven. A little steam risesfrom the slits on top. Sugar and spice -cinnamon - burned into the crust.But she's wearing these dark glassesin the kitchen at ten o'clockin the morning - everything nice -as she watches me break offa piece, bring it to my mouth,and blow on it. My daughter's kitchen,in winter. I fork the pie inand tell myself to stay out of it.She says she loves him. No waycould it be worse.
I am thinking about the way that life can be so slippery; the way that a twelve-year-old girl looking into the mirror to count freckles reaches out toward herself and that reflection has turned into that of a woman on her wedding day, righting her veil. And how, when that bride blinks, she reopens her eyes to see a frazzled young mother trying to get lipstick on straight for the parent/teacher conference that starts in three minutes. And how after that young woman bends down to retrieve the wild-haired doll her daughter has left on the bathroom floor, she rises up to a forty-seven-year-old, looking into the mirror to count age spots.