I hear her before I see her.
Or at least that’s the way I think it happened, looking back now. It’s the sound, the joy, that I remember first.
The familiar squeal, the thrum of her fingers, the tap tap tap of a foot gone rogue.
I know the kind of joy that fills a space far larger than one can be expected to contain.
My girl’s body does her happy too.
The young woman looks to be in her late teens or early twenties. She is shopping with a woman I assume to be her mom. As Mom peruses the racks of clothing, Daughter squeals and thrums and tap tap taps, marking her path, claiming her space, heralding her being.
I am overwhelmed with a desire to connect with them, either of them, both of them. To tell them that though we are strangers, so too, we are family.
Pharrell William’s Happy comes on the store’s sound system and I can’t help but smile. That song is my girl’s anthem. She owned the stage with that song.
The young woman sings along. Her words are three beats behind the music and are, to be fair, loosely approximated, but they are no less beautiful for their artistry over accuracy, perhaps more so because they ARE art. Swirls of sound in music need not be words to say all that they are meant to say, and far more. She doesn’t stop moving, thrumming, tap tap tapping as she sings.
I watch her mama smile at her. “You like this song don’t you?” she asks. I can’t stop watching them, reveling in their freedom to be who they are. I want to tell them. Too many mamas would quiet her. I want to thank Mom for not quieting her. I want to thank Daughter for being so beautifully, deliciously loud. I want to tell her that by unapologetically carving her space in the world she is allowing my daughter to fill the expanse of her own.
I worry that they’ll think that I’m staring, judging, leering. I want to say, “I’m watching for the right reasons. I promise.” If there’s a way to do that, I don’t know what it is. The song ends and she goes back to humming.
Our paths cross. Mom looks at me and I her. I smile self-consciously. I turn to Daughter.
“I loved hearing you sing,” I say. “Your joy was contagious.”
She jumps ever so slightly into the air.
Mama smiles – a big, real smile. She tells daughter to say, “Thank you.”
There’s no immediate response. I linger, smiling, pretending to be looking at a rack of shirts. I don’t want her to feel pressured, but I want to give her the time that she might need. Eventually, she says what I know is a thank you.
I want to tell her that by unapologetically carving her space in the world she is allowing my daughter to fill the expanse of her own. But the tears are coming. It’s too much – one of the moments in which my body does my feelings too.
“Thank YOU,” I manage, my voice beginning to break, “You made my night with your Happy.”
I smile at mom.
She smiles at me.
I manage, barely, to leave without vastly inappropriately hugging them both.