Your hands, worn in infant size by her. Your toes. The color of her hair—identical to yours as a child. The shape of her chin and the curve of her upper lip. Your placid expression was mirrored by hers as she gazed out at the world in those first months.
When we dreamed of starting a family (I'm not sure if I should admit this or not, but here goes…) for some reason I imagined a brood of mini-mes. And when we found out our firstborn was a girl, I thought it would be a given.
I imagined her as the image from my childhood photos—soft '80s light, blond '80s hair, and monochrome '80s colors. Unfeasible I now realize, but nevertheless, this was the picture I conjured in my mind. I imagined a girly-girl who loved to accompany her mother on shopping trips, a hugger, a diva when the situation called for it, not much of a sleeper. I imagined my childhood self and I couldn't wait to meet her.
What I didn't imagine—perhaps strangely, as you were indeed 50% of the equation—was a mini version of you. And yet from the moment she was born there she was—all you.
The first and most obvious sign was her eyes: they had your perfect almond shape with soft eyelids and a knowing expression, the color sometimes blue and sometimes green depending on the day. (How had I never noticed how beautiful your eyes were before I saw them on our daughter?)
And just like that, she has made me love you even more.
After her eyes, your other characteristics reflected in our baby became clear thick and fast. Your hands, worn in infant size by her. Your toes. The color of her hair—identical to yours as a child. The shape of her chin and the curve of her upper lip. Your placid expression was mirrored by hers as she gazed out at the world in those first months. Your self-containment, a gift you passed on to her as she demonstrated her independence more and more as the months flew by.
And I didn't wish her any different.
She made me love you even more.
As she grew and her personality started asserting itself, her you-ness became undeniable. Quiet confidence. Economy of outward affection. Fiercely loyal. A natural way with people, big and small. She was the kindred spirit you hadn't realized you'd been waiting your whole life to meet.
And it was as though you both knew it. The two of you had a secret, unspoken language between you. You understood each other on a spiritual level; there was no need for conversation and you fell perfectly in sync. I wondered if I should feel left out—and sometimes I did. But it was a magnificent thing to watch—a man and his mini-me, so complete in one another's company.
And it made me love you even more.
I don't mind admitting that I started subconsciously looking for signs of myself in her. Maybe the arch of her feet, high like mine… maybe the line of her nose… maybe the back of her neck when I tied her hair up in a ponytail.
I was there too, I told myself. We were there in her together. But it was your personality that continued to shine through in those early years, and it was you she adored.
I'd feel sad sometimes. It was hard not being the favorite—especially as she and I were constantly in each other's company and the daily grind was mine to bear the lion's share of.
But I was proud as well. I was proud of the things I had always admired about you—the things that made me fall in love with you all those heady years ago—now shining out of our daughter like a beacon.
It made me love you even more.
As she has grown older the essence of her you-ness has started to diminish. She looks more like me as she grows—the shape of her face, an expression when she's caught off-guard, the tone of her voice.
As her girliness asserts itself she searches me out more and more. She asks for lipstick when she sees me put it on, she begs me to curl her hair, her little hand searches out mine in a room when she's uncertain. Time has brought her back around to me, as I'm sure it will shift again and again in the years to come.
But more importantly, time has brought her to "her." Neither you nor me, but the little person that is pure her.
However much of "you" and however much of "me" we see in her, what I love most is the "her" in her. The things that make her uniquely herself. The quirks that neither of us can take credit for and that knock me off my feet every single day, when I have to pinch myself that we get to be her parents.
When I imagined our child in my wildest of dreams I would never have guessed this. And that's what makes it magic.