FIVE DAYS AGO my daughter, Mikaela, turned twenty-four, which is crazy because it was only five days ago that I turned twenty-four. I don’t think I quite understand how time works, anymore.
What I do know, better than I know anything else in the world, is my life has meaning because my daughter came into this world. Twenty-four years ago, I got a serious education in human subjectivity when Malisa delivered the most beautiful six pound, two-ounce human I had ever seen. (Had I ever seen a six pound, two-ounce human before?)
I had no idea what it could mean to hold something so beautiful. There was no way I could have done anything to adequately prepare myself for the kind of love I would be in when the nurse put her in my arms for the first time. She was half of me, half of her mother, and one-hundred percent of herself at the same time. It is an experience I will never be able to duplicate — that first moment with my firstborn.
When Mikaela was just about four-years-old, we were living in Oklahoma City in a small, red-brick house we were renting on 51st Street. One summer evening, Mikaela and I were doing something we always enjoyed (and still enjoy) doing together — watching a movie. Snuggled up together on the living room couch, our VCR was illuminating the television screen with an absolutely beautiful adaptation of the Francis Hodgson Burnett novel, “A Little Princess.”
If you’re not familiar with the story, a young girl named Sara Crewe is left at a boarding school while her father (her mother has long since died) goes to serve in the trenches of World War I. When her father is presumed dead, Sara is relegated to the role of servant by the deeply tragic but terrible headmistress, Miss Minchin.
When all seems lost, we find Captain Crewe is not dead but has been wounded and blinded by the horrific, toxic gas used on the troops by the enemy. In addition to what turns out to be only temporary blindness, Sara’s father has also lost his long-term memory, and in a series of fortuitous events, ends up recuperating right next door to Sara’s boarding school, unbeknownst to all parties involved.
As Mikaela and I lay next to each other on the couch, situated comfortably underneath the afghan which had its home on the back of the sofa during the hours it was not being used for snuggle time, we were both caught up in this deeply compelling story of a daughter longing for her father’s return.
In the climactic scene of the film, Sara sees her father, who has recovered from all of his physical wounds except his memory loss. When Sara cries out to him, Captain Crewe doesn’t recognize her. She pleads with him to remember, but he simply cannot. I was so caught up in the story that I was not prepared for what would happen next.
“Why doesn’t he know her?” Mikaela cried. “Daddy!! Why doesn’t he know her? He has to know her! He has to!!”
Mikaela jumped off the couch, crying and screaming.
“HE HAS TO KNOW HER, DADDY!! MAKE HIM KNOW HER!!”
“It’s okay, Sweetheart. Watch. Watch. See? It’s okay. See? He remembers, now! See?”
Mikaela would not be consoled. I had to rewind the video to make sure she could see everything turned out well in the end. I don’t know quite how to put into words what that moment was like for me. I don’t know if Mikaela remembers that specific scenario, but it has been burned on my heart for the last twenty years.
My sweet daughter has always had such a huge heart. Her brother, who would come along exactly four years and two weeks after she was born, is just the same. How do you express what it feels like to have your children teach you so much about what it means to live a life so full of empathy? To have such a care and concern for the world and everything living in it is a rare thing to find in a person. Mikaela has that kind of heart, and she walks the kind of walk only someone with such a heart can do.
It was no surprise to me, then, that on her birthday, Mikaela chose to raise money for RAICES, a nonprofit agency that promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees.
It doesn’t matter to me on which side of the political spectrum you stand. The fact of the matter is, children are being separated from their parents at our southern border. That is a fact.
Every time I see or hear something about these migrant families and how their children are being taken from them, I think of how my four-year-old could not be consoled when presented with the idea that a father might not remember his daughter after having been separated from her, that I might not remember her should we ever be apart from one another.
Mikaela’s beautiful four-year-old heart has grown exponentially in the last twenty years, always looking for a way to serve and make people’s lives better. I wish every day I could be more like her.
Won’t you please join me in donating to this worthy cause? RACIES is an organization that is doing incredibly important work, and you can make a difference by donating whatever you can afford.
We have an opportunity as a society to bring an end to the suffering of these children and their parents. It is not some far off, lofty dream. The solution is right in front of us.
Please, join me and the many others who have chosen to no longer sit on the sidelines but to make a difference, instead. Click on the link below and become a part of the positive change that is happening every day. We can change the world with the magic of an empathic heart.
But remember, in the words of Sara’s father, Captain Crewe, “Magic has to be believed. It’s the only way it’s real!”