The lake reflects the azalea blooms and the dogwood blossoms as the duck family waddles toward the shore. Sunlight stretches in and reaches through the just-budding trees overhead, and every now and then the breeze ripples through the clover grass. From the deck, the view is picture perfect. My daughter and her friends agree: It’s exactly right for prom photos.
“Just where the fence frames those flowers and catches some of the lake. That will be the spot!” Jenny and Laura confer. “Will the flowers still be in bloom then?” The pair look at me for assurance that their plans will be just right for the pictures.
“We should be okay, and if not those flowers, there will be others,” I say.
Jenny and Laura turn to check with Kendra and Grace. There is some discussion about heels and sinking into the ground; the four walk down to do some scouting, and I can’t hear specifics, but things look good.
A couple years later, I seem to repeat this same scenario, but the daughter is different. Mary makes plans for photos by the same lake with the same flowers, sunlight, and ducks forming the backdrop for another group of friends and their prom.
I shake my head with a quick movement to focus on the right time period. Daughters and proms and photos by the lake run together, and I feel deja vu in a very real way. Bemused, I consult Kathy: “Did we do this with Amie, too?” “Well, we lived in a different place, so no lake. But yes, there were lots of photos.”
Being the dad of three daughters ages a fella. It’s very easy to flashback to my oldest daughter Amie’s birth. Kathy likes to tell the story about my first reaction to seeing this daughter and holding that small bundle and saying out loud: “Oh! One day I’ll have to give her away.” In my heart, then and now, I know it to be a father’s heartache –– the time when a child grows beyond a parent’s vigilant watch-care.
In the intervening years, a mantra came to light that reinforced my dad-lessons and worked when I was not physically with my children.
Jenny’s prom arrives. She and her friends decide to go as a big group instead of distinct couples. Behind the camera lens, I smile and think to myself how my girl shines brightest. I wish for a moment that the evening would end with the photo shoot, under my watchful eye. But the picture taking finishes and the girls tiptoe up the hill, careful of those heels, holding the long skirts above the spring green grass. I catch up to Jenny and walk with the group to the cars. She hangs back a moment for a hug, I tell her I love her, hope she has a good time, and then I say the words she knows she will hear, my mantra: “And remember who you are!”
Sometimes, I pretend not to hear my now-grown daughters conferring with each other about parental admonitions they have heard through the years:
“It only take 30 minutes to finish all your chores; don’t put it off.” “Eat your vegetables or no dessert.” “Do it nice or do it twice.” “In this house, we will be kind to each other.” “Brush your teeth.” “Call me when you get there.” They pass around the memories, laughing all the while, until one of them wraps up the session: “And, of course. . .” –– dramatic pause. Then they chant in unison: “Remember who you are!”
It’s true. For all of their growing up years, they have never left home without hearing that mandate. I flip through my mental photo album and see them at all ages, off to myriad places with different friends and groups. My parting words, after “I love you,” have always been the same.
In Christ, we are not our own. John’s Gospel records it this way: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are.” We have received the “Spirit of adoption.” How we conduct ourselves in our comings and goings need to reflect the one we are invited to call “Abba, Father.”
Let us hearken to our hearts as He whispers, too: “Remember who you are. . . Remember Whose you are.”