Nevertheless, it is impossible not to roll the tape back and relive those iconic moments that every parent savors. Grace is an only child and our family unit was always perfect as a small world of three.
A few years ago I wrote an essay about that for a book called “What I Would Tell Her,” a collection of letters or stories that dads wrote for their daughters. I’m sure I never focused as carefully on any 2,000 words I’ve written — and, just for the record, I have written no fewer than 2 million words for books, magazines, and this newspaper.
And I think that’s because there is no role in my life I have taken more seriously or loved more than being a dad and a husband: A dad to Grace Experience and a husband to Victoria. (I never took being a son seriously. Just ask my dad. Same with being an advertising executive when I was a young man. And it’s hard to take any columnist seriously who coined the expression “turd hockey.”)
Among the advice I offered my Grace that has relevance for any 17- or 18-year-old girl finishing high school?
“Don’t wear four-inch heels around Soho if you don’t have to. You’re just asking to derail a promising dance career.”
“It’s your room and your space. If you can find the shirt you want in those mountains of clothes, it doesn’t matter if there’s no path on the floor to your bed.”
“Yes, food is love. Especially bruschetta made with good bread, finely chopped tomatoes, and extra virgin olive oil.”
“There’s nothing wrong with chick flicks. The term is senselessly derogatory and offensive.”
“Get a rope ladder for your bedroom window. Fire happens.”
“Wear a scarf around your neck when it’s cold. You need always to protect that lark-like voice of yours.”
“Your laugh is charismatic. It’s candy. It’s chocolate. It makes everyone who hears it fall in love with you.”
“You don’t have to stay up till 4 in the morning. Really. There are things to do as early as midnight.”
“Minimize your regrets — which means minimizing your tattoos.”
This month and next I offer my heartiest congratulations to all of the girls and boys — now women and men — whose friendship my daughter cherished over the years and who are graduating from high school. And while these are just names to most readers, at different times in the last 17 years they have meant the world to Grace: Isaac, Ellen, Bridget, Yuki, Cameron, Amelia, Jess, Becca, Ryan, Anna, Claire, Elisabeth, Erica, Lena and Matthieu.
And Grace, your mother and I thank you for being our daughter and for the indescribable joy you have brought into our life. We are always more proud of you than you know — and certainly I am grateful for the countless times you have allowed me to make my weekly deadline by turning your life into performance art.
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on May 22, 2011. Chris’s next novel, “The Night Strangers,” will be published on October 4, 2011.)