Thursday, September 18, 2008

Homework Assignment

My daughter is in third grade and my wife and I went to an Open House at school on Tuesday. I walked out with a homework assignment: write an essay - a million words or less - on "My Scholar".

Here's the results:

I make my living in advertising. I spend my days designing layouts and writing ad copy. Each project has it’s space constraints and most often, I’m limited in the amount of words I can use and forced into brevity of message.

So when I read my assignment to describe my scholar Chloe - limited to a million words - it offered a freedom that I’m not normally accustomed to.

But it also offered quite a challenge.

A million words to describe my scholar? I’m not sure it’s enough.

When Chloe was born, she was our first child. She came into the world through a long, arduous labor that my wife endured. Being our first child, my wife and I were understandably excited about her birth, and though no angels blowing horns or cupids strumming harps were in the delivery room, when Chloe was born, she seemed so alert and bright and shining, that it almost seemed as if she glowed.

When I looked at her for the first time, she was quiet and without fuss, and seeing her gaze upon the world for the first time was truly one of the most dazzling moments of my life.

As a baby, Chloe was a joy. She passed through infancy and into being a toddler as softly as a warm, spring breeze. I lost count of both the quiet moments of shared solitude, and the occasions of out-loud, crying laughter that our family had.

Oh, she had her tantrums to be certain. But somehow they were almost always tempered with humor until the storm passed, and it was sunny skies on her face once again.

Early on, Chloe developed a quirky sense of humor, hamming it up and stepping it a notch higher whenever a camera was present. Her twisted sense of humor has never left her, and for that I am grateful.

My closet comedian came out in full force. There was nothing exempt from my actions to receive a giggle as my payment, a belly laugh as my standing ovation.

Time passed and I continued to revel in Chloe’s wonder of the world, trying to see it fresh and new through her eyes. Aged dandelions became a well of wishes to blow in the wind. Cardboard boxes morphed into space ships and the woods turned into Sherwood Forest, full of adventure and mystery.

I’ve heard Chloe referred to as an “old soul” more times than I can remember, and anyone who spends some time with her will understand that’s true. Her eyes sparkle with good-natured mischief, always looking for a good joke, a magic trick, or a good bout of tickle-wrestling. But there’s understanding in those eyes... knowledge and comprehension beyond her years, and she never ceases to surprise me with some of the choices she makes.

She never ceases to make me proud.

Chloe received the best of both my wife and I. She has a trusting, open heart that’s loving and caring for almost every living thing; noted exception being creatures with more than four legs that stings, bites, or has the ability to crawl walls.

She wears her heart on her sleeve and gets her feelings hurt easily, though I think it’s because she still views the world through a filter of kindness she thinks everyone should look through. She’s sympathetic. She’s empathetic. She has her moral compass set in just the right direction.

Some of Chloe’s favorite movies are King Kong (we were both teary eyed at the ending, even though I knew long before what was coming), and Chloe understood it was a love story. She loves Garfield and Shrek and anything pink and frilly (though she still loves playing on her grandparent’s farm with the horses).

She has a brain for nostalgic memories, though she forgives grudges easily. She makes friends easily - much more so than I did at her age - and I think it’s because of the warmth that radiates from within her. People are drawn to her light and constant smile so that they too can be lifted up by her side.

Chloe loses herself in books and has an imagination for writing that even I as her father, am sometimes envious of. Many are the days I’ve seen her curled into a corner, jotting notes and writing in blank journals. Tales of princesses and unicorns and bear cubs fighting the draw of sleep so they can see Santa Claus when he arrives.

She loves American Girl dolls and weird toys. She wants to learn to play chess with me and could spend days in the pool like a water rat.

It’s sometimes been said that before we’re born, we choose our parents. I’m unsure as to what I could’ve possibly done in the past to deserve her gift of choice, only overjoyed and accepting at its result.

As a father, it’s somewhat heartbreaking to know that someday Chloe will inevitably go through the pain and experience that life offers. She’ll go through betrayal and heartbreak. She’ll learn about injustice and that life is far from being fair. She’ll learn that luck and timing sometimes trump hard work, but that it doesn’t mean you should stop having faith in either.

I know someday Chloe will fall in love with someone she’s meant to be with. She’ll willingly hand over her heart strings to someone that I can only hope does the same with her; put the care of their heart willingly and honestly into her hands, and trust in her with everything they have.

My only hope is that when Chloe does find someone, that they look upon her with the same eyes I do. That they bear witness to the funny, intelligent, beautiful girl that she is. That they notice all the little things she does, all the things that individually may not mean much, but gathered together make her as amazing a person as she is.

I could keep writing... but there’s nothing I could possibly write that would explain what I already know and what you already realize.

To look into the eyes of my daughter, to share her laugh, to feel the warmth of her spirit, you’ll find yourself with only one conclusion to consider - to know my daughter... you have to know her.

And to know Chloe, is truly, to love her.


Blogger Joseph Mulak said...

Bob, that's the same way I felt about my daughter....who is currently in grade 2. It's nice to see a father writing nice things like that about his child. Please don't take her for granted. I'm in a position where I don't get to see my children, but I miss them everyday. BTW, where can I read some of your work? I don't think I've ever sampled your writing.

Joe aka psychomule

10:47 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

Hey there Joseph - thanks m'friend... yeah, it's very easy to get caught up in life, work, etc., and take things for granted. It's in those quiet times that are all too rare that you come to realize just how incredible some people are in your life.

And thanks for the interest in my writing... right now there's a flipstyle chapbook for sale at:


It's got two of my short stories in there - Bluebottle Summer, and Free Ride Angie.

And I've been busting my ass on a novel because I'm under physical threats by several other writers to get both a novel, and two novellas done in the near future. You'll be seeing some new stuff soon, promise. =)

9:57 AM  
Blogger Joseph Mulak said...

Awesome...I'll check out the flipbook at Shocklines....I'm also busting my ass on a novel. Plus writing short stories when I get the time. Good luck...

2:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful. And you have me crying again like I just watched an episode of 'Little House'.

Only you could give such an accurate description of her. I still swear she is an Indigo Child.

Although I think your 'closet comedian' was given life outside that closet in your younger one.

12:35 AM  

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