As long as we can remember, Ive told Ellie that shes my favorite.
This drives her sisters up the wall. Or it would if they didnt know Im kidding.
Ellie, perpetually embarrassed that her dad long ago nicknamed her Rooty, turned 13 yesterday and officially turned the corner into that scary world of teenage-hood.
And brother, is it scary.
Its not just all our Columbia County kids whove died this year in auto accidents and other trauma that worries every parent. Its also the intangible stuff the future holds for the children we bring into the world.
Its hard to say what Rootys future has in store. But I have a feeling its going to be loud.
Ellie is the first one of my girls to really take a liking to music, maverick and unladylike though her interests may be. I wanted her to play the clarinet or saxophone; she instead decided to play the baritone horn, proving she could do things her way and rejecting any semblance of delicate girliness. (Its hard to look dainty playing a mini-tuba.)
Having familiarized herself with the bass clef, shes now decided to learn bass guitar - in part hoping to try out for her schools jazz band, while making plans to form an all-girl band.
Of course, all the other girls in her band have to first acquire, and then learn how to play, musical instruments - but were talking about teen-agers here, for whom nothing is impossible.
We helped make it more possible by giving her a bass of her own for her birthday, and an amplifier to play it through (with headphones, for our sanity). Maybe the jazz band and garage-band plans arent so far-fetched.
The choice of bass guitar has me intrigued. Its the instrument I played in bands as a kid; and like Ellie, I was a middle child. Maybe we both learned to play second fiddle growing up, and found the bass guitar a compatible fit.
While the bass is rarely a front-line solo instrument, its not a dainty one, either. And a lot of Ellies life is all about being tough.
This is a kid who, at just six months old, lay in a hospital oxygen tent out of reach of the hugs of her parents. The respiratory virus that threatened to kill her scared hell out of her mom and dad, who still were pretty new at the whole caregiver role. At the time there was a 3-year-old sister, and the littlest sister was still three years away.
Other trips to the hospital werent as serious. She fell and split open her cheek as a toddler, and not long afterward was bitten full in the face by our beloved collie.
We still joke about the race to the emergency room; my mother-in-law driving, my wife holding the bleeding 3-year-old in the back seat. Ellie started crying anew, and my wife asked if the pain from the wounds had gotten worse worse; No, Mommy, Ellie gasped, youre squeezing me too hard!
That grip, we realize, has to loosen up a little as these milestones, like 13, are reached. Stitches from hospital visits are long since gone, but we sometimes seek out the scars with our fingertips, like finding our way on a roadmap of frightening memories.
Its amazing, actually, how good most of the memories are. Yeah, shes stubborn. And though shes in the gifted program in school, she can often be bewilderingly (to her parents) uninterested in hitting the books.
Come to think of it, the choice of bass guitar isnt the only thing we have in common. The stubbornness and disinterest in schoolwork sounds an awful lot like Ellies dad, too. And all of us have gone through the period of adolescent rebellion that, at the time, we are utterly convinced is entirely unique to our particular space in the universe.
Little Rooty, now almost as tall as her mom and every bit as pretty, certainly occupies a unique place in her dads universe. She is, after all, his favorite.
But dont tell her sisters. They still think Im kidding.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to bpaschal@ newstimesonline.com.)
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