Is this the little girl I carried?

You remember, before she was born, the clichés you ignored in the fog of anticipation – cherish every moment; it will go by in the blink of an eye.

You remember how radiantly beautiful she was when she came into the world, even with the baby acne dotting her face, and how you scoffed at your own skepticism about love at first sight.

You remember walking around at all hours of the night, rocking her to sleep, singing to her (this may have kept her up, I now believe), wondering why you sat in your car the next day at a STOP sign for five minutes before being roused from your stupor.

You remember waking in the wee hours, hearing her crying and calling your name, realizing she had crawled through the dog door and was pounding on your office door, wondering where you were.

You remember walking with her around the house on your shoulders and having the time of your life, forgetting that the ceiling fan was too low and….her crying for 15 seconds and you having nightmares for weeks about your stupidity.

You remember watching the “Hello Kitty” video over and over and over, marveling at the look of delight on her face as you prayed she would not ask to see it one more time.

You remember driving her to preschool, with her everyday pleas for a story to be told on the way, with only one subject matter that would do – dinosaurs – and tapping into veins of creativity you did not know you had to concoct a new tale for each trip.

You remember her love for animals, which, combined with your being a sucker, caused you to violate municipal zoning codes by having at one time in your house dogs, cats, frogs, a turtle, fish, hamsters and….a ferret. (Some remain alive.)

You remember sitting with her for hours in the emergency room when a dog bit her, almost taking her eye, and she was as brave as you were not, and her only concern was for the fate of the puppy.

You remember the hours spent in the wash, throwing stones, talking about nothing and finding discarded treasures, and the hours whiled away in parks, practicing soccer and softball and basketball, followed by the trip to Dairy Queen, where I once asked her if she could remember the best time of her life and she looked at me and said, “Right now.”

You remember the Independence Day trips to Coronado, especially when she was young and we tried to catch tiny crabs among the beach rocks, waiting for hours and then nabbing one she named “Herman,” not hermit. (He did not live long.)

You remember all of the games, freezing during soccer and sweltering during softball, the look on her face during a basketball game when she hit her first three-pointer and turned to the stands looking for you, with the huge smile on her face dwarfed only by the one on yours.

You remember the trips you took her on, including to Italy, where she passed on the incredible food and demanded McDonald’s, forcing you to try to explain to non-English speakers that she wanted a Big Mac with nothing on it, and where she listened in horror to the recorded guide at The Colosseum talk about all the blood shed there, and her sympathy was for all the slaughtered….animals.

You remember her resilience when her mother passed away, her struggle to go on, her pain and sorrow, realizing you would do anything – anything – to absorb it, to make it disappear, to make her feel better.

You remember her heart, her reflexive compassion for others, whether it was an injured foe on the soccer field or a friend at school who needed a shoulder to cry on.

You remember her smile, always her smile.

And then the day comes – today is that day – when she graduates from high school, and amid your ineffable pride and sweet memories, you look around for someone to tell: Cherish every moment; it will go by in the blink of an eye.