Pink jammies one day become pink bras.
Brown curls one day become colored messes.
Crooked teeth one day become enticing smiles.
One day, your little girl will become a woman.
You know it’s coming, with each passing day she stands a little taller, her hair a little longer, her clothes a little shorter, but that is your baby girl.
You held her at her first breath. You caught her as she flung herself from the couch. You told off little boys who thought it would be funny to rough house her to make her feel small. You placed her up on your truck to help her feel big.
She was your daughter and you loved her more than you could ever love anything in this world. From the moment you laid eyes on her, you knew anything you ever thought love was, was wrong. This was love. She was love.
“You just can’t understand.” She brushes you off, and your heart breaks.
“You don’t understand,” you tell her, because she doesn’t. She couldn’t. How could she know how much you love her? You didn’t understand either, when you were her age. Now you feel like apologizing to your parents. “I do everything for you. I don’t care if you hate me now, I am your dad and I do what’s best for you. That’s all I care about.”
You wish you could protect her from every hurt. You wish you could protect her from every boy, because you realize you were just like them once.
But, you realize everything too late. You can’t go back and not be that boy that hurt someone else’s daughter. You can’t not be that boy who lied for a kiss, touched what wasn’t his, or hurt what didn’t deserve to be hurt.
She was your daughter. Your baby girl. A woman.
You are responsible for every man like you.
And when they come into her life, you have to trust her even if she doesn’t understand.
And if those boys you’re responsible for make your world feel small, you set her back up on the truck and show her how to be big again.
Story by Mckenna Snyder
She was five years old. Five. She always ran to me after I finally came home from a long road trip. This picture was the last one of her with my truck, before I lost my job.
She always smiled, sayin’ “Daddy, I missed you! Mamma always cried at home lookin’ at dat pichure you guys took in fron’ of da house before you left. Now she can be happy with you again!”
I always reply with, “I love you, too, sweetheart. Now go run after your mamma so we can talk about dinner.”
One time when I got home, she, my wife, wasn’t there. It turns out that she didn’t love me no more. She just went away for longer than I was on the road, which was about 15 years at that point. But Clara then said, “Daddy, I missed you, and I still love you. Wanna talk about dinner with me later?”
This is when I took that picture, because that uplifted me higher than the clouds in the sky. My little girl loved me! So I rounded up the truck, having her stand on it and smile her beautiful little grin.
That night we ate out.
The food was good, for a diner. A few of my buds went through, laughing and joking around. Every once in a while they looked at me and talked to me. But tonight, my daughter was the center of attention for me, regardless of how much beer my coworkers drank.
We then drove home.
I took the work truck, because she, my now exwife, stole my car. I remember how the fog covered the unpaved road home through the woods. Barely any cars took this road. I was in a hurry because Clara’s curfew was 9:00, and we were pushing it. After all, I didn’t want to argue in frona her again, as her mom was pickin’ her up. Then, I realized that Clara wasn’t wearin’ her seatbelt.
Shruggin’ it off, because of the distance to the house, I stopped the truck at the intersection before my road. Then, my best friend, Alfred, rammed behind me with the truck. It was so sudden.
The truck went forward into the intersection where a semi hit the bed, spinnin’ us off of the road, hittin’ a tree.
Clara was launched from the cabin, and she flew out into the darkness of the woods. That’s the last time I’d seen her before I blacked out.
I ain’t never goin’ to forget that night. This photo, I always look at it with the grief and sadness I felt since that day, where my everything was taken from me.
Story by Caleb Syler