She dances in and out of my sight, especially at night, when I am in the otherworldly twilight between wakefulness and sleep. She's blonde, of course, and she has fickle eyes, today blue, tomorrow green, or even gray. She holds one dimpled hand up in front of her mouth when she giggles; it's a shy and endearing habit. All sweetness and light, she leaves a delicate and thoughtful footprint wherever she goes.
Now and then she can be intractably stubborn, but it is easy enough to distract her, and finally, to delight her. Her big brothers trip over themselves in their desire to show her the sun, the moon, and everything in between.
She wears this dress when she is three, and I never forget how she looks in it; she is a fairy, a sprite, an ethereal creature.
She is my daughter. I hold on to the dress long after it's too small for her, and decades later, when I am past old, I come upon it in the attic. With my fingers I trace out its intricate pattern. I bury my head in it but am able to catch only the faintest musty odor. There is no piece of her remaining in the folds of this garment.
She is Julia, and she waits for me on the other side of a door; I do not yet know which door. Perhaps it is only when I am close to death, when I curl my tired hands into my boys' warm and vital palms, that the directions I must follow to find her will open up to me in the way of a road map, bulky and awkward but finally reassuringly detailed. Maybe she is my next life's work. I will be grateful if that is so. Oh, do not doubt that I am content with how things are; I know that I am blessed to have two lovely and loving boys, gentle souls both. But there is room for one more. There is room for Julia, the girl in the sweater dress, the girl who visits me when I am most vulnerable, most receptive, most willing to entertain the idea of her.
written in 2007; republished on request, a request i am honored to indulge