It happens every time I hear that song, "Theme From 'A Summer's Place.'" That beautiful, melodic instrumental takes me right back there, back to five years ago when our first daughter, Aleeza, was only 6 months old. It was the first song she ever responded to. I would play the CD and she would smile at me, motioning that she wanted me to hold her. I'd pick her up, she'd press her little cheek against mine and then we'd dance around the den like two ballroom dancers from some Fred Astaire movie.
How I relished that time, the smell of her cheek, that toothless smile. That was our routine about every other night, and I thought it would last forever. Only it didn't; it couldn't. One day I played the song and she just sat there. She no longer cared. Her now toothy smile no longer showed.
Somewhere along the way of those eight months of our routine, an era came and went. My daughter started growing up. And it all seemed to happen in the blink of an eye.
I still remember bringing Aleeza home from the hospital. That tiny 6 and a half pound baby doll. My wife Debbie and I marveled at how incredible it was that fingers could be so small and have tiny fingernails to match. We used to literally count the number of days since her birth. "She's only been in God's world seven days… eight days… nine days…" and so on. She would lie there on the couch and smile at us, that beautiful, toothless smile. And it seemed like she'd always be that toothless, silent doll.
Then one day we went to get her from the crib and she was standing, waiting for us. Still smiling, still silent. Only now, we could see a tooth coming through. Then two, and before we knew it, she had a full set of teeth and was talking.
One night I said to my wife, "Do you remember when Aleeza couldn't talk at all?"
Debbie thought about it and said, "No, I can't anymore. Can you?"
I blinked and an era came and went.
"Me neither. It seems like she's always been talking." I tried to conjure up the image of that tiny, silent baby laying on our couch, unable to sit up, but I couldn't. I just sat there feeling somewhat sad.
I blinked and an era came and went.
I remember when Aleeza started nursery school at one of the Jewish day schools. She didn't want us to leave after we took her into her classroom. She had to always have long good-byes complete with hugs, kisses -- both given and blown -- and of course waving until we couldn't see each other anymore in the hall. That was our routine, even when I was running late for a business appointment. I didn't care. I lived for these moments, knowing they wouldn't last.
Fast forward to the present. Aleeza is in her third year of school and I am driving her to school. This year is special since it is her first year of wearing uniforms. She looks so cute in her uniform -- that little three quarters sized girl -- that I could just eat her up with a big wooden spoon! I drive her to school and pull into the car pool lane. I get out as I always have and unlock her door. Our "Good-Bye Routine" at car pool is the same as the hallway routine of the previous two years. She gets out, hugs and kisses me good-bye, makes a heart on her chest and points to me. I then make one back and point at her and raise two fingers. It means, "I love you too." And then we wave until we can't see each other any more.
This morning, however, as I took Aleeza out of the car I turned to answer a quick question from one of the teachers. When I turned around Aleeza was gone. I looked and saw her walking up the stairs into school. I became desperate and panicked. "Aleeza!" I cried out, "Aleeza!"
She turned to me on the steps and smiled. "Have a good day little girl!" I said.
She just waved and turned to go. I realized that there would be no more kisses at carpool. No more hearts drawn. No more waving until we couldn't see each other any more.
But then, at the last minute, Aleeza stopped and did a double take. She must have seen how crestfallen my face was. She turned, waved and mouthed, "I love you, Daddy!" Then she turned and was gone. And so were the days of our good-bye routine.
I blinked and yet another era came and was gone.
Sometimes life moves too fast, and if we're not careful, we can suddenly miss it passing us by. I can't stop my daughter from growing up -- nor would I want to. But I can make sure that I'm there with her, loving her, enjoying her, marveling her, before I blink and say good-bye to another era which has come and gone.