She has been growing her hair out. My wife helps her put it in a ponytail. I smile at her, open my wallet, produce a driver’s license, my first, 25 years gone, plastic laminate starting to separate from the photo caught in the amber of its yellowing. The picture is still visible: me with a mullet falling well below my shoulders. “What do you think?”
“Simone,” my wife interrupts, “put your swimsuit on so you’ll be all ready when we get to the pool.”
She shakes her bangs, her dress taking a turn as she strides gracefully from the living room. We want to share her confidence.
Our child was born ten years ago, a boy, Simon. Today, she is Simone.
A decade of “Simon” means my wife and I make mistakes all the time. Waiting for Simone to cross the finish line at “Girls on the Run,” I saw an old friend from high school.
“Do you have a daughter in the race?” she asked.
My mouth opened. “It’s…complicated.”
But it didn’t have to be.
When we went out for lunch later that day, the server asked, “And what will she be having?”
Simone politely replied, “Chicken dumpling soup” before taking a sip of water, the condensation from the glass wetting her fingertips and then her napkin where she added an X next to another X in an attempt at tic-tac-toe.
“Ready, Andy?” my wife calls from the kitchen.
No more stalling.
I place the license behind the most recent one in my wallet and slip it in my pocket. I grab the green duffel bag and we make our way to the car. Simone is excited because the hotel has a pool and she has a new one-piece bathing suit: black with dashes of color running down each side like a rainbow of ribs.
The pool room is humid. My wife and I recline on the poolside furniture and watch Simone jump into the deep end and splash in goggles too large for her face and already fogging.
We have the place to ourselves, and then, gradually, other families wander and wade in. Another girl, then a third. My wife and I press our bodies forward, uncertain witnesses, watching the three of them stand equidistant from one another, an awkward, bobbing triangle. A few words are spoken between them, and then, one by one, they get out and jump back in, separately first, then together. We watch as they swim to the shallow end. Watch, too, as one girl interlocks her fingers, extending her arms away from her body to form a makeshift swing. She invites Simone into that cradle, tipping our daughter back, like a baptism.