Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Free Spirit

This is my oldest daughter, Agnese. If she saw her picture on the blog, she might punch me. Or she might just shrug, and say "I don't care." This picture does not do justice to a very beautiful girl, and the only reason I am using it is because it is almost impossible to get a picture of Agnese facing the camera. She is fleet footed and scampers away like a deer from the camera lens.

Agnese is a free spirit. She is so much a free spirit that she doesn't like it when I call her a free spirit. She doesn't want to be defined. She is very social and has plenty of friends, and yet she also enjoys being alone. She reads a great deal, and also spend a lot of time outside. She keeps her own thoughts; indeed she has a contemp-lative disposition. Unlike John Paul and Josefina, she does not fill up the room with her personality, but is very unobtrusive. Yet she has her boisterous moods as well.

She is both tough and vulnerable. It was only recently that I discovered that she did not like my teasing her about certain things. I am always teasing; I am always searching for the humor and irony of life, yet I know how easily this can degenerate into levity--the vain indulgence of one's wit at the expense of the sensibilities of another person. That virtue which is rightly called a sense of humor, which I have striven to cultivate all my life, is a delicate thing that requires both spontaneity and self-discipline, and always tenderness and affection. I think I see the exquisite humor of my girl, but it may not be something that she wishes to have revealed.

Agnese is a mystery to me. She is a 12 year old girl--still very much a girl, and yet on the threshold of becoming a young woman. She is, I think, shy. I also think she loves her father very much, but she is not sure how to express it. I hope she knows how much I love her. She is so precious to me, but I am clumsy in showing my love; perhaps that is why I resort to teasing her more than I should. Sometimes I feel a little embarrassed  in front of her, fumbling like a schoolboy.

I want to be a good father to her, but my daughters are my first up-close experience in my life with girls. I had no sisters growing up. I was terribly bashful with girls in school, until the point when they had begun to develop the sense of being young women. Then it was different. I won't claim to understand women, but I have always been comfortable with them, because I was raised by a loving, talented, strong and expressive woman, my mother. And then I married another loving, talented, strong woman with a different kind of expressiveness, and with an affection and good sense that keep me grounded. But the world of girls is one that I am only discovering now, along with my four daughters.

Even here, Agnese is not like the other three. She does not flirt. She is a spunky girl, ready to play at a boxing match, run a race, or stare at me with a face that says, "Stop being so corny, Daddy." She seldom cries unless she is very upset or hurt. I think she has deep and tender emotions but she does not like to be self-conscious about them, and does not often show them. I know that she prays, but she does it when no one is watching. There is much about her that is silent, in a good, healthy way. I do not want to trespass upon that silence. I want to love her with reverence for the secret that God is whispering within her soul.