My daughter, the woman

Surely, it was only yesterday that our daughter, sat front and center on the stage as pre-schooler singing the “Wiggle Worm” song.
But, that would be impossible because last week she stood front and center in her church choir energetically singing a worship song. As I stared at her, I suddenly understood why in the musical “Fiddler on the Roof” Tevye sings “I don’t remember growing older, when did they?”
She entered our lives as our only cheerleader for her basketball team of older brothers. She provided the energy, the enthusiasm and the sassy attitude they needed to keep them in line.
As my 4-year-old, I made sure her face was scrubbed and her dress was clean. I pulled up her socks, buckled her shoes neatly and hoped she would stay neat long enough for the program. Now she moans in despair when I shrug off not having changed my brown loafers for my black sandals before I leave the house.
The toddler I closely guarded from all sorts of dangers grew-up, went off to college and reported the creep who thought he could get away with sexual harassment. Her experience prepared her to be a teacher at one of the state’s largest high schools, where she works with boisterous, bold, mouthy teen-agers. It took little time for her to realize she had to make it very clear to them that she might look young, but she is their teacher.
I remember the tomboy holding out a caterpillar for me to pet and the child who ran to me for Band-Aids for her boo-boos. Last year after she fainted a couple times, she made her own appointments, talked with doctors whom I have never met, picked up a prescription – and called me afterwards with the doctor’s diagnosis.
Tevye wonders, “Is this the little girl I carried?” I ask, “Is this the little girl I washed off after she played in the red clay mud in the backyard ? Twenty years ago, she tracked mud in my house. Now she scrubs and cleans her house so thoroughly that I am not sure that the muddy little kid of yore would be allowed inside her back door.
Our tomboy has become a beautiful young woman who wears cute outfits, heels and carefully applied make-up – and has her own tool box with wrenches, tape measure, screwdrivers and a hammer.
We did her hair until the summer she insisted we pay for a swinging teen-ager haircut and replace her Coke bottle glasses with contacts. Even good friends did not recognize her when she walked into class the next fall.
I made the white dress the school insisted she wear under her high school graduation gown, bought the flowers to hand to her when she left the podium with her college diploma in hand and wrote the check for her wedding gown. Last week – she planned a surprise party for her husband and told me what I needed to wear that night.
I helped her pick out her college. Last year, she enrolled in graduate school and I still am not sure which university she attends.
I needlessly hum and echo to Tevye’s question, “What words of wisdom can I give them? How can I help to ease their way?” Last month she and her husband picked out and bought their first home, chose the paint for the walls, ceramic tile for the floors, light fixtures and their own appliances. She didn’t need our input or want it. She chose colors and styles I would never consider, and declared them perfect.
Car repairs, new jobs, house repairs and phone conversations long ago forced me to realize that her team of brothers had become men. But it took seeing her front and center on stage 20 years after the Wiggle Worm Song to realize she too had grown up and become a woman.
(Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times.)