She kissed me this morning before getting out of the car. We'd shared a lot of laughs during breakfast and our morning routine. Sirius our dog hopped on my lap, I pressed down the accelerator, and we pulled out of Anna Elementary School. Sterling was off to a sunny Wednesday.
It's now been four days since her first gymnastics meet at the Kettering, Ohio YMCA. We had no idea of what to expect. Her training sessions are closed (probably so the kids aren't constantly monkeying and pulling faces at their parents, or maybe because most parents can't shut their pie-holes and are constantly shouting out bad advice) and so we hadn't see if she'd been progressing or just goofing off and talking.
Maybe she'd be a train wreck and we'd have some funny stories to tell her boyfriends when they come to dinner. Or, maybe she'll shock us and actually do well. Aren't I the positive one? Kellie says that I am an idealist... and I'll admit, secretly I'm expecting that she'll launch a career that leads to Olympic Gold. I mean, someone has to win it, and I figure it might as well be her.
She kissed me this morning. That's the first time and it broke my heart in the best of ways. She has such a spirit and light in her that is undeniable. She shines so bright that I'm often annoyed and you'll see me squinting and blocking my eyes.
Today though, I sat squinting in the rising sunlight as she climbed up into the front seat, leaned over, and gently kissed my cheek. "I love you Dad."
It was one of those unexpected moments in life that transcend our mortal perception. There was something there that was intensely present, undeniably real, and thus a pivot point of awareness that broke through the facade of routine and pierced my soul.
When they called her name at the awards ceremony, she was in absolute shock. Her teammates were poking her, pulling her toward the podium, and trying to explain that she was a winner. It happened five times and she was in disbelief every single time. I smiled to the point of face-hurt.
Her best finish was unexpected. We thought floor would be her strongest, and it was her weakest.* She stunned us with a great beam routine. Her only boggle coming after a loud CRASH from some unknown source across the room, a quick look to where we sat on the stands, and then a wobble and a quick balance check.
Then, like a champ she recovered, completed the routine, and absolutely killed the dismount. Seven year old Sterling, at her very first competitive meet, in front of the eyes of hundreds of parents and competitors, snatched a third-place finish on the most nerve-racking of apparatus (or apparatuses if you're partial to archaic english).
But, what I love most about her, is that she kissed me this morning.
* Her floor routine was missing a key element that she has not yet learned. The omission of that element resulted in an automatic deduction. Apart from that deduction, her score was very strong.