My daughter turned 21 during this past spring turkey season.
I keep a picture of her next to my bathroom mirror. Each morning as I shave, I share a smile with a little girl holding a Barney-the-Purple-Dinosaur fishing pole giggling over a sun fish. The small fish and her smile are about the same size. She is wearing a floppy purple sun hat that we affectionately called her “fishin hat.” From our old country home on that windswept hill near the Wyoming border, she could look out her window and see the Mirror lakes near the McNenny fish hatchery. More times than I could agree, she would beg me to take her fishing.
Maggy loved everything about it, from digging the worms, to gathering her little tackle box, to packing the treats that we would share while fishing from the dock. She had a Mickey Mouse bobber with Mickey seated happily in an inner tube. The tackle box is long gone, but I keep that bobber on my desk and that picture by my mirror. They remind me of her singsong voice of long ago and the hundreds of questions she would ask; questions about fish and the weather, birds and clouds, God and the nature of cats.
She has been sending her younger brother pictures on his cell phone lately. Pictures of fish she is catching along the Iowa border with her new fishing partner. College is out and, for the first time, she won’t be coming home this summer. I guess jobs, and fish are more plentiful east river.
Perhaps too she prefers the company. But that is as it should be and she has discovered a young man who seems to enjoy taking her fishing as much as I did. The camouflage waders she is wearing in the latest picture are many sizes too big. So many times I remember her getting cold and wearing my jacket like a little trench coat; sleeves rolled up and coat tail dragging on the ground. The jacket was always camouflage and she, like her mother, has a natural beauty that makes camouflage look like formal wear.
She is finding her own way. The fish she sends us pictures of now are much greater in size than the ones I was able to help her catch. She has one year left and then graduate school and I imagine that each change might take her a little farther from my reach. I am truly thankful when she takes the time to drop me an email and call each Sunday night to check in on her mother. She says that she will come home when she can and she promises to visit soon.
I miss that little girl. But I’m so proud of the young lady she has become. It is time to apply for this fall’s hunting licenses and I’m going to fill one out for her. Perhaps this Thanksgiving we can spend some time in a blind together in hushed conversation as hunting dictates, and she can share with me the answers she has discovered about the mysteries of fish and the weather, and I, the nature of God and cats.