The front passenger door opens and she slides into the seat. Not until the car is on the highway does it register what happened. Subtle and not subtle, like being caressed on the shoulder by an iron hand in a velvet glove. This new thing is not puberty, no. It is unmistakably, however, a threshold crossed.
Sunlight bounces diamonds off the snow piles, makes you dizzy. You were unprepared for that door to be opened. How did it get so far, so fast? This wee bundle you once carried like a little Easter ham through the hospital doors and into an astounding new life, now sits in the front next to you. When she sits up straight her head is not that far below the top of yours. It freaks you out.
This is not happening. Wait, it is. The evidence of your senses tells you in no uncertain terms. There will be no ignoring this little earthquake.
It crosses your mind that perhaps you have been out in the interstellar black for some time. Crossing the gulf at the speed of light and time passing so swiftly back on earth. Dilation. Relativity. Distances traveled beyond your comprehension so fast the disorientation upon arrival makes you feel as if you caught up with the self that was running away from you. Maybe this is the explanation for why you feel so old and new born simultaneously.
She makes you feel this way. Often. It is the way of your shared universe. To have played a role in the creation of her is both supreme accomplishment and fount of anxiety. You want the best for her. Your fear is that between you and the world, neither will deliver on that promise. The fishhooks of that fear spike your heart. The pain lends a frisson of urgency to the time you spend in her presence. "Will you get it right?" the imps ask at night as you fall asleep.
The door opened, she sat in the front seat. The pins rolled out from under you as the mass of years bore down on you in one brilliant and blinding moment. No longer is she the beautiful baby who had no comprehension of car seats and safe travels. No longer is she the luminescent toddler who chattered from the back seat. Probably never again will the rear view mirror reflect that quizzical look she gave you when you sang badly along with the stereo. Watching her now in the watery sunlight of a chilly February you rub with a trembling hand that certain spot over your heart. The warmth there tells you it will be okay. She is there. She is a blessing. She rides shotgun.