This is my daughter, Aryn.
She's the one on the right. The lady on the left is the local "weather specialist." She's not a real meteorologist. She's a dinosaur. Been around since the days of dry erase weather boards. When they had to draw isobars and storm fronts by hand and simulate their movement by swaying in front of the camera and flopping their arms. I imagine she made swooshing sounds.
And always with that damn smile.
You'll notice my daughter is not really smiling. Even though she'd just won second place at the Johnny Appleseed Festival Apple Dessert Baking Contest. That weather lady was one of the judges. And my daughter? She's not convinced the weather lady is the real deal. See that skeptical glance? The almost smirk? She's not sporting that weary look because she'd stayed up until the wee hours of the morning slaving over the filling for her Dutch Apple Pie Cones. Oh, No! Behind that glare, she's calling bullsh*t.
Just one of the reasons why Aryn is my favorite kid.
There are other reasons:
1) She's the only one of my kids that will go see the movie that I want to see, even though it isn't rated G. Recently, we sat through Avatar, munching on buttered popcorn with caramel-flavored powder sprinkled on top, sipping a five gallon Mr. Pibb made complete with a shot of vanilla, and then talked afterward about how it most definitely was NOT Dances with Wolves: Redux, like everyone claimed.
2) She knows what Redux means.
3) She also knows what loquacious means; a wellspring of trivial chatter, she never fails to make me laugh.
4) Her creativity knows no bounds. Like me, she is often in the midst of a plethora (another favorite word of hers) of projects, and doesn't know what to do with herself if she has to clean up her mess.
5) She's a voracious reader. It's not unusual to find her holed up in her own special corner of Barnes & Noble, our favorite hangout, with a pile of books around her, many of them long and mostly finished before I'm ready to leave. I've never been a particularly fast reader, so I envy her a tiny bit.
6) She hasn't given up on asking questions. Unlike most kids who think they have it all figured out really early in life and so avoid staring at the grays of life, she probes deeper. She's the only one of my kids who will routinely engage me in discussions about God. Or the lack thereof. For Aryn, the pursuit of knowledge is a never-ending journey worth taking, with signposts of occasional wisdom leaning on the roadside.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. She is close to my heart, parallels my own personality in ways both delightful and frightening, and at this point in her life needs a father who is also a friend.
Now, I have four kids.
Aryn is not the oldest, and she's not the youngest. She's right there in the (sort of) middle, older than the little ones still in elementary school, yet younger than the sophomore in high school.
The little guys think I'm cool, especially when I take them to the roller skating rink or play the PS2 with them. They really dig me if I remember to bring home barbecue Pringles or Yu-Gi-Oh cards.
And the oldest thinks I'm an alright chauffeur for him and his girlfriend. He was my favorite once. When we played Dungeons & Dragons together. When I could still beat him at almost any game we popped into whatever console we owned at the time. But somewhere along the line, I became his father. The one who complains too loudly about his grades, or the amount of time he's spending on the phone.
Time for a cleansing breath . . .
Do I love each of my kids? Without a doubt. Would I step in front of a train or take a bullet for any one of them? In a heartbeat, and without batting an eyelid. Do I spent quality time with each of them? Moments where we hop in the car, or in my recliner, and just do stuff? Stuff they will remember tomorrow morning? Or when they're older and writing blogs about me? Stuff that is sometimes nothing at all?
I believe so.
Will Aryn always be my favorite? I can't answer that with any sort of certainty. Hormones are about to hit. But for now? She still likes to be with me. I don't embarrass her too badly. I see myself in her. In her eyes. The shape of her face. That pensive look she gets. Some people say she zones out a lot. But that's not zoning. That's digging. Trying to make it all make some sort of sense when that hardly seems possible.
She needs to be my favorite. And perhaps I need to be her favorite as well . . .
aka The Cheek of God
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