She was born on a Friday afternoon in Sebastian, Florida. Her oldest brother was smitten with her from the start. Her next-oldest brother pouted as he held her, afraid of losing his position in the family pecking-order, but quickly fell in love with her too. As we all did. As everyone who meets her does.
I watched her dance and act, heard her sing and play drums, and all she wanted for Christmas when she was young was a cash register. That should have been a sign of things to come, but at the time I just thought it was cute.
She played volleyball, and her serve was unstoppable. She painted and organized and wrote me notes. She was the only one of my children to love cars like her Daddy did. She'd get up at five a.m. on the Friday after Thanksgiving every year, not to go shopping with her mama but to go to Daytona with me. To the Turkey Trot car show. She gravitated to the engine displays because she loved the noise.
Every day I loved her more and more.
When I hurt her mama, through tears of pain, she still loved me. I was/am her Papi and she was/is my Emmie-Bug.
I've heard parents say "I love all my children the same". To which I reply, in the words of that great theologian Roy D. Mercer, "Bull-butter".
Not to get too far off-track here, but does God love us all the same way? I don't think so. His love is there for everyone, but it's applied differently. That's how I love Emily. And John. And Carder. Same love, different application.
When Em was three or four, the boys came to me saying they were being treated unfairly and wanted to be treated the same as their little sister. Seizing the teachable moment, I replied that if they wanted to wear girls' clothes and be treated like one, I'd be glad to oblige. The light came on for Carder first and he backed out. Realizing his flank was exposed, John gave up too.
They knew she was my Princess, and she'd be treated like one.
She's sensitive and stubborn, spiritual and judgmental, passionate and reserved. She has her mama's heart and her daddy's hardness. She raises her hands when she worships and prays like Elijah. I'm pretty sure she has an inside track with the Lord, so I try to stay on her good side.
She lets few people in, but once you're in, to her you're in for life. She's a great friend, but you don't want to make her mad. You really don't want to make her mad.
She loves Elvis and Michael Buble, Sinatra and Lynyrd Skynyrd. She watches Lifetime movies with her mama and westerns with me.
She wants to get married but she refuses to settle for just any old boy. She'll see or hear something and say, "I want to have that in my wedding." I can add up the cost at any time and know I'll be in line for a bailout. But she's worth it.
She knows her future husband will have to run the Berry gauntlet, so she's careful about who she brings home. I haven't met anyone yet who's good enough for her.
She's a mystery wrapped in an enigma covered by a question. I wouldn't have it any other way.
I am, and always have been, proud to call her my daughter. Some guys say "she'll always be my little girl". Emily is nobody's "little girl". But she is my baby.
And on Saturday, December 12, she will graduate from Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. Didn't she just enter first grade?
My tiny dancer is grown up now. Her mama and I will be there to see her get that expensive piece of paper. Mama will cry. I'll be strong, I'm sure. And we'll all be proud of what she's done, but prouder of who she is.
Another chapter in her life will begin. And another in mine will end.
Excuse me while I go glue my breaking heart back together.