Friday, December 2, 2011

My Daughter

Guest post by: Kirk Marshall
My daughter Norah, whom most of you know from the various photographs taken of her wearing ostentatious head-gear, is by far the most significant and wonderful thing I’ve ever had a part in creating. She is gorgeous, charming, smart, funny, energetic, cute and (you’ll have to forgive the effusive praise) the greatest thing in the rather immense history of things.
On those days that start out bad, continue bad, and threaten to end bad, all I have to do to cheer the darkening doom is imagine my classroom door opening and Norah teetering energetically and inquisitively into the room with her giant eyes dancing and her fists clenched expectantly. Presumably, she is either impersonating an inebriated dinosaur or she is prepared to spar with some diminutive pugilist. In a moment of unspeakable joy, she realizes that she has just entered a room that I occupy. Her glowing eyes light up more. Her face flexes into a crooked, spasmodic smile. She wrinkles her nose and shouts, “Da-da-da!” Sometimes she just babbles breathlessly. She is so clearly thrilled that the next few moments are to be shared with me that it:
  • melts me into a puddle of emotional gibberish so that I crawl (matching her chaotic glee) as fast as I can, so I can hug her, kiss her, and tickle her,
  • braces me to face any possible situation or trial because she believes in me, even though she has no idea what “believing in me” means or what on earth it is she’s believing in me to do,
  • reminds me of the joy that can be found in loving someone without reserve,
  • totally minimizes that awful, wafting poop-smell.
Just yesterday, Norah spent fifteen minutes standing right in front of me marveling at how I was blowing bubbles with my bubble gum. Every time I blew one, she would tentatively grab or poke at it, sometimes successfully popping it and pulling strands of purple gum toward her own mouth. Other times, the bubble would pop on its own and she would watch intently as I dabbed the residue off my chin, chewed, and reloaded for another bubble. She would turn her head and lean in for closer scrutiny. She wanted so desperately to make her own bubbles that she began to make smacking and popping noises with her own mouth.

One thing that Norah hasn’t figured out is that I’m the funny one, not Mommy. I say the most droll things to her and I get only a strange smile. When Mommy does her Excited-For-No-Apparent-Reason Dance (which involves kicking, hopping, and completely losing  all dignity), Norah gets hysterical. She runs in place and spins gracelessly, and the two of them, in what seems to be a rare display of spastic upmanship, eventually devolve into heathen flailing and chanting.
Also, as scads of nieces and nephews can aver, my tickle skills are unparalleled. But Norah only manages a condescending chuckle when the trademark Ticklebug (t) emerges to attack her. However, when Mommy tickles her, she has joy-seizures (I call dibs on Joy Seizures as a band name).
“What does a puppy say, Norah?” usually gets the correct(-ish) response of “Woo! Woo! Woo!” from our young savant. We quickly realized that monkeys also say “Woo! Woo! Woo!” only a semi-tone higher and with a slightly more impish look in the eye. Cows say, “Wooo! Wooo!” (moderately lower and more prolonged), if the topic of farm animals ever arises in our casual conversation. One of the few animal vocabularies that Norah has mastered that does not consist of words in the Woo variety is that of the snake. When asked, “What does a s-s-s-snake say?” Norah generally hisses. Sometimes her hisses can be a bit gurgly, as if the snake in question is using a straw to noisily finish off a Big Gulp.
Im not sure if this post will be published before or after Thanksgiving. In Florida, the Marshall family traditionally participated in ‘Bama Bowl with the Churchill family on Thanksgiving evening. My brother and I are unforgivably excited about this year’s inaugural Hilltop Bowl, which will feature some promising rookies. Norah is pretty low on the depth-chart, but I’d like to see her get a few downs under her belt. She’s been practicing open-field running in our living room. You should have seen the balance she showed to stay on her feet and keep going after that hit that the ottoman put on her - truly remarkable footwork! I think we can convince whomever our quarterback is to dump it off to her in the flat to see if she can break a tackle or two and pick up positive yardage. On the defensive side, she’s sure to be pass rusher, most likely from an inside position like nose-tackle. A month ago, cousin Cole was riding some form of toy car through Nana’s living room. Norah came from the blind side and completely upended the car - with Cole on it - using sheer brute strength. And, in her own living room, she is the queen of the blitz. If she sees Daddy kneeling or sitting, he is dead meat. Yesterday, I was completely lying down and she still came in hard with the power-rush, leading with the head. She should have been flagged for a late-hit personal foul, but the referee was checking Facebook.
*Note: Since beginning writing this, Hilltop Bowl has come and gone. Norah elected only to observe and cheer from the playroom window. Uncle Matt can thank his lucky stars.
Only recently, Norah has shown an increased interest in books. She lets Mommy or Daddy finish entire books in one sitting without wrenching them from our grasp to chew on. Her go-to reads are You Are Special by Max Lucado, Bunny My Honey by Anita Jeram, and Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion (the last one isn’t really one she’ll get off the shelf on her own, but if I ignore her choices long enough, she’s bound to get that one eventually). She prefers those custom books in which we supply photographs of family or her as a baby and she always gets a kick out of books that have pictures of puppies. Whenever I try to read a Daddy book, she wants to get on my lap and help me turn pages. It’s difficult to articulate the differences in structural integrity between the thin paper of Daddy books and the thick cardboard of Norah books.  But I love that she loves books. She’ll play for a pretty long time in her room alone with various toys, but eventually, there will be a long quiet period. When I go by to check on her, she’ll often be standing quietly by her books making a selection.

I loved books when I was little, but I loved stuffed animals more. I can’t even begin to describe the odd nature of my stuffed-animal-play-time growing up. Well, I can begin: It was called Animal Baseball, and it’s everything it sounds like and way, way more (including running statistics for entire seasons). Norah is developing quite an entourage of stuffed buddies. Currently, her favorites are Ted (Jodi refers to him as Ted E. Bear, but I refer to him as Ted E. Sheringham), Wralph Wrinkles, and Tuppy the Puppy. All three of these occupy her bed right now, and, when she wakes up in the morning, she likes to converse with them.
Having a child is so many things to me and I’m grateful for each of those. But one of those things stands out to me: Having a child is rejoicing in the things you love about childhood through the eyes of your child. This is one of my prayers for my daughter:  God, thank you for the joy of Norah - the joy she brings to us and the joy with which she lives her life. Help me to live my life with child-like joy that brings joy to others, so they can know the true Source of joy.


Carlton Farmer said...

Very nice, Mr. Marshall.
But "the most significant and wonderful thing I’ve ever had a part in creating"? Wanna rethink that:

Sharlyn said...

Absolutely beautiful. I laughed at your desription of her football skills. My favorite part is your prayer. Amen and amen.

Theresa said...

Excellent post, Kirk! Love it.

Making Memories 1999 said...

I love your description of Norah and Mommy dancing around. What a beautiful word picture! Good post, Kirk! =)

Brent Waggoner said...

Fantastic. I laughed, I cried, I quoted sections of it on my Facebook page.

Jamie said...

I loved this post!!

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