Ten (or "This Post Is Not About Pearl Jam's Debut Album")

It's funny to think that there was ever a time when Savannah didn't exist. It's funny to think that just Shannon and me used to go to bed every night in a lonely little apartment, and that we wanted it that way. It's funny to think that I ever thought I was okay before Savannah changed everything.

Savannah is ten this month. She gets short shrift sometimes. She's not a little toddler with bouncy brown ringlets anymore. She no longer sucks at English and says weird and funny things. It's been a long time since she used to fall asleep on my shoulder while I swayed. She's a person now -- she brushes her own teeth and gets herself snacks and manages her own time, so sometimes she gets a little less attention. The principal tends not to know the good kids' names, after all.

I remember the color of the hospital room she was born in. How black the cold night looked through the window. She came the next morning at dawn. I didn't understand what I had when I held her. I looked into her tiny face, sensing that this was a pivotal moment, that I ought to be transcending mortality somehow. I knew she was a part of me, but I didn't know what it meant. I thought it had something to do with 23 chromosomes, with cells and proteins. And that's what I thought the miracle of creation was all about. But it means more than that. So much more than that.

Now it's been ten years since Savannah came in the gut of the winter to a middling Utah town, and I'm still not completely sure what it means. But I know that they haven't invented words or sounds or colors that can capture the nirvana that settles over you when you're walking side by side with your little girl and she holds your hand, and you glance sideways at her but she's staring off at something else, and you realize it was reflexive, the way she reached for your hand, like she just instinctively wanted to know you're there. Like some unconscious part of her wanted an unbroken line between you. And you wonder if maybe that unconscious part of her is part of you, too.

I came home from work one day a couple months ago and knocked on the front door. "Who is it?" Savannah called from inside. "It's Daddy," I called back. The deadbolt clicked and she swung the door open with a broad smile. The soft, fuzzy sunlight from the West settled on her face, and for a split second she was eighteen. It was just the sun and the shadows, a sleight of the light. But as Savannah skipped away and I climbed the stairs to change my clothes, I wondered again what it all means -- creation and time and the face of my little girl.

I wondered if, in a way, all the things that shape existence just revolve around Savannah. The sun and the moon. The tide and the stars. The hum of conversation, the droning traffic. Deep valleys and black storms. The seemingly incoherent rhythm of life. I wondered if it's all just stage props and theater lighting and background music from the orchestra pit, just atmospherics put in place so Savannah can happen. So my younger Savannahs and your Savannahs and Savannahs in the corners of the globe we'll never meet can happen. I can't think of a better reason for this spinning ball of gas and rock and water.