I still remember her as a child. Her hair in a ponytail, picking out stones by the shore of the lake when she was ten. Each stone was a wonder.
“What’s this one, Daddy?” she’d ask.
“And this one?”
“Also basalt.” Some children might be disappointed with that answer. How can two different stones be the same thing? But not my Anna.
“Oh,” she’d say, and go back to the shore. She loved the shore. The dance of water and land.
“I’m going to swim across the lake,” she said. I absolutely forbid it. It was too far for her to swim alone. But she did, eventually, when she was fifteen. Didn’t ask permission, just did it and called from a friend’s phone.
“Don’t be mad,” she said. She could have never told me, but her pride outweighed her fear of punishment. I grounded her for a week, but I wasn’t mad.
“Don’t be mad,” she said again when she was nineteen. She was scared. We talked. I listened. It broke my heart. But the choice was hers, and she was good at making the right choices.
She earned her degree in geology, of all things.
“Why geology?” I’d ask when she moved back home. Anna just rolled her eyes in frustration.
“Dad…” She was always asked that by her Aunt and Uncle. “Why geology? Why not something useful, like business or computers?” That’s why she couldn’t get a job, they would say. It drove her nuts.
I was just happy to have my girl back, if only for a time. I made it clear I was proud of her. That I would help her where I could and not to listen to her Aunt and Uncle.
She moved out the next year. Moved in with a friend from high school. Within two months, they both had pink hair.
“Don’t be mad,” she texted me along with a picture. I told her she shouldn’t sleep with cotton candy, but honestly, it looked good.
At twenty-five, her interests turned to computers. She had always liked computer games, despite the lecherous boys online, and decided to go to graduate school. Did work on memristors, whatever those are. She tried to explain them to me, but I never understood what makes them different from regular computers. I told her I was proud all the same. She did well for herself in the end.
I miss her. More than I ever thought I would. I miss her excitement as a child. That boundless glee as she picked up a stone by the lakeshore, like she held an entire universe in her hands.
I think in a way she missed it too.
Yesterday she sent me a text. It was a photo of her standing by a lakeshore. An ancient one that had dried up long ago. Only the dry cold rock showed any hint that there was once a lake there. She was holding up a stone, and she was beaming with pride and joy. Like she was ten.
“What’s this, Daddy?” said the text underneath.
How far we’ve come that my daughter can send me such a photo, as she stands upon the surface of Mars.