Today is my daughter Leah’s 14th birthday. I find that very hard to believe, but I guess I said the same thing on her 10th, 11th, 12th, and 13th birthdays! I turned 14 in 1973, a year I seem to be forever referencing on this blog. I wonder if Leah will have a lot of memories of 2008 when she’s an adult. I hope not, at least not for the same reasons. I think I tend to obsess on the early 1970s because of how unhappy and out of it I was back then. Leah seems to be in a very good space these days. She’s in the middle of 8th grade, loving her school, and has a lot of really great friends.
Leah is sitting across from me right now on her MacBook, humming “Spring Awakening” songs and talking to her friends on iChat. I showed her this photo I wanted to post, one of my recent favorites—Leah at Susina, an L.A. bakery we often hang out at (and where I write many of these posts). It’s after school and she’s doing her homework. I love the expression she’s giving me as I aim my camera at her. That sort of irritated tolerance kids of this age specialize in. “I love you, dad, but dear God, what are you going to do to embarrass me now?” Leah doesn’t like this photo but gave me permission to use it provided I also include the one underneath, a posed glamour shot from last April. The two of them together represent the whole of the 14-year-old experience. Navigating through constantly changing moods, shifting allegiances, experiencing a growing self-awareness, wanting to shine brightly one minute and just be part of the crowd the next. Leah clearly has a stronger foothold in adolescence today than she did last year at this time. As she continues to mature and separate from her parents, I’m finally learning how to let go and stay attached at the same time, if that makes any sense.
Some people never mention their family members on their blogs, some use pseudonyms for their children, and some reveal terribly intimate details that I’m sure land them in hot water. Up to now Leah has enjoyed seeing any mention of herself on the few posts of mine she’s read over the years—she is a budding actress after all. But I’ll continue to be careful about that.
I know that kvelling about your children can be obnoxious and I hope I haven’t gone too far in that direction. I’ve resisted the urge to post clips from all of my daughter's musicals but I’m going to close this birthday post with a short clip from a show Leah did at our synagogue earlier this year on Purim, a parody of “Cabaret” as seen through the Book of Esther. Leah was the only kid in the cast of cross-dressing adults. The video resolution is awful but to me the clip is the perfect glimpse of my daughter at this stage in her life. Her confidence amazes me. And yes, the Mama Rose in me teared up when she got applause for that extended note. Sing out, Louise! I love you, Leah!