I could see from the moment she walked in the door, this would be big, no matter which way it went. I already knew it was a big deal, we all did and I was glad I came home early from work to be there. I knew deep inside it would be what she wanted, I just knew it, I felt it, I believed it and I had spent time envisioning a magical outcome. Still, the proof wouldn’t surface until she opened the envelope.
The question was, could she? Sophie walked in the door with tears in her eyes, her sister Emily and Emily’s friend, Morgan close behind. Now as Sophie approached the kitchen island, there weren’t only tears, there was uneasy breathing, trembling and a vain attempt to bring out a smile behind all the anxiety. Sophie was flanked by myself and my wife Debbie, with Emily and Morgan, close behind us. Debbie, Sophie and I were at the edge of the island, staring down at that envelope. Could Sophie open it? So far all she could do was stand there lost somewhere in between timid tears and a full-out breakdown.
The envelope sat unopened.
Debbie asked, “do you want me to do it?” Sophie kind of shook her head. The reason we had waited is because we wanted her to be the one, and she wanted to be the one to find out. After all this was a long time coming. From the countless hours Sophie spent behind closed doors practicing her singing, not visible, but certainly audible to everyone in the house. The time spent in weekly voice lessons, the open house at the Carver Center for the Arts where she wanted to attend. The Voice workshop, held four months ago, when Sophie and I got a taste of what was expected when it came time to perform for the “judges”, who would rank her, total the score and then if she hit the marks, throw her into a lottery. A lottery! Even if she scored 80 or above, the end result was up to chance.
Tryout day was nearly three months behind us now, we had waited since that time, as had countless others. On the day she performed, there were nearly 120 other kids on the list, and that was only one of three weekends where the hopefuls could attend, all vying for only 16 slots. It was simple, hit your marks, sing your heart out, make a good impression, in voice and on paper and then hope for the best. Sure, simple.
Sophie finally picked up the envelope and instead of trying to open the flap with her trembling fingers, still crying and struggling to regain some rhythmic breathing, she tore off one end. One of my thoughts, for a split second, was she was going to tear the letter inside by opening the envelope that way… but she didn’t and slowly she pulled out several pages, all neatly folded and creased.
We started to read, all three of us leaning in to that letter, frantically scanning the top paragraph, but within moments we knew this was not the answer. The letter was formatted for anyone, that first paragraph simply stated the same thing to anyone who might read it, minus the name. We were quickly, frantically scanning the text above the fold in the letter. Sophie, now assisted by my wife, was holding the letter, in her still-shaking hands and all of our fingers were speed reading those top lines, but we were only focusing on the top third of the letter, the middle part was still hidden, folded underneath the crease. Where was the answer?
All of this seemed to take a long time, it was actually just seconds. Then my daughter, aided by my wife whose hands were all over this now, and I know whose heart was pumping like a jack-rabbit, opened the letter all the way up. Within a split-second Debbie saw the word, “Admitted”. She didn’t just see it, she shouted it, “admitted!!”. “It says admitted! You’re in Sophie, you’re in!!” For Sophie, it took only a split-second to register, now we all saw what Debbie was pointing at, but you had to be sure the text was real and not a figment of our hopeful imagination.
All the hard work, all the hope and all the heart that went into this moment was now pouring out. There were no more timid tears, Sophie was in full cry now, elated, emotionally drained, and able to finally let it all out. I was the lucky one, because my wife, who in her own elation had grabbed the letter in her hands, was now jumping and dancing her way to the other side of the island. It was just me and Sophie.
It wasn’t until I wrapped my arms around my daughter that I could feel the full force of what she was feeling. It passed right through me, putting the tears in my own eyes, and the crack in my voice. Sophie was not so much in disbelief, but relieved, there was finally a resolution, the one she had so badly wanted and now she could fully emote. My teenage daughter who doesn’t always want a bear hug and a kiss from her Dad, and certainly not in public, was putty in my arms, the tears of joy and cries of happiness were flowing easy now, for her, for all of us.
All I could keep saying as she lingered in my arms was how proud I was of her and that I loved her. It was like holding her as a baby again, and feeling all the years, 14 of them now, rush in and fill the room. The hug was just long enough, I was about to hand her off to my wife, her mother, who maybe more than anyone else on this earth, felt everything Sophie was feeling. In fact, just before Sophie walked in the door, Debbie told me how fortunate I was, because I would never have to know what it feels like to be a Mom, the anxiety, the heartache, the never-ending worry… and if you’re lucky, the heart-stopping joy.
Maybe not. Then again, I know what it’s like to be a Dad to two daughters and I’ve got the love, pride and joy part down…easy.
Congratulations Sophie. Way to chase that dream.
I love you,
Until next time, thanks for taking the time
Author, It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story
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