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My Daughter Is Starting to Read & I'm Catching Fire

There are certain things that you just look at in your life, certain things that go down the way they go down that you would never have guessed would happen years ago—when you were a much different person living a much different life.

Violet came into my world almost five years ago and ever since then everything I thought that I knew about love and affection and heart and soul has been casually flicked out the moving semi window like some big rig driver’s Marlboro Light whose time has come and gone. Since then, I have spent a hell of a lot of my time and energy trying to somehow capture a sliver of the essence of some of that perfect spiral magic that nails you in the chest when you become a dad.

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But I know that I fail almost all of the time. I know I do. It isn’t really my fault though; that’s what I tell myself, anyway. There are a lot of words for a lot of things, but for some things, there are pretty much none. At least that’s how it seems to me a lot of the time.

Lately, Violet will appear in the kitchen with some book in her hand, her face caked in intense concentration, kind of like a frown but not a frown, you know?

It’s something else, something bigger/better. She climbs and pulls and heaves her way up onto her tall chair at the island and right away I can tell that even though I am in the room, she doesn’t really see me or feel my presence. She is in the zone. She flips the book in her hands open to some random page and dives in.


I mouth the word silently, cheering her on with the look on my stupid face.

I stand transfixed. Again, there are no words. My guts somersault into my blood and I can taste the thumps of my breathing and my heartbeats. Her voice rocks me, and the sound of her trying to do what she is evidently trying to do—it’s like some bumpin’ system bass grenades going off in the dark trunk of some pimple-faced punk’s tricked-out Audi.


As a daddy, as just another pinprick of a witness to the human struggle and the overwhelming power of the human spirit, I mouth the word silently, cheering her on with the look on my stupid face.

As the selfish impatient everyman that I truly am, it takes chains of railroad iron all snaked around my tongue to hold me back from spitting out the answer.

“Buhzzzzzzing….BUZZING!” she cries out, her fist pumping the air around her.

In my kitchen, on a weekday afternoon, the galaxies pour star lava down on my scalp and I am engulfed in the flames of pride.

Seriously. It is that ridiculous, how I feel.

It is that awesome.

“Buzzing….buh-buh-be-bee-bee….BUZZING BEE!!!”



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She has done it and she knows it and she jabs the kitchen sky wildly with her sweet beautiful fists as I screech like a wild Alabama hog and she is smiling now, watching me watching her, both of us on fire with the magic flames; a little kid beginning to read and her 41-year-old bookworm dad standing there in kitchen, the words "buzzing bee" echoing off the walls of the entire friggin’ universe.

The words "buzzing bee"—the only words that will ever come close to the things I have been trying to tell you all along.

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