Solomon realizes how much his daughter has grown
LAST WEEKEND I took Little Solomon and Eve to the Philadelphia Soul game, and I learned a lot more about my kids than I did about the Arena Football League.
I learned that the boy is the practical type. He knows sporting events involve eating overpriced junk, and that he will end up wearing at least a portion of the Cheez Whiz from his nachos. Therefore, he dresses accordingly, donning jeans, a T-shirt and sneakers.
Eve is another story.
At 12 years old, she's growing into a young lady, and she's starting to dress the part. I noticed as much when she came downstairs as we were preparing to leave for the game. Like Gloria Swanson in "Sunset Boulevard," Eve was ready for her close-up.
She was wearing open-toed wedges that showed off her painted toenails while adding 3 inches to her height. She was sporting pale-red lip gloss that gave her that elusive seventh-grade look. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail that showed off her cheekbones. If the Jumbotron made its way to our section, Eve would be ready with a pouty grin.
Seeing her tween ensemble was scary, but it was nowhere near as frightening as what happened when we got to the Wells Fargo Center.
We made it to the game a little early, so I bought them cheesesteaks while we killed time. Little Solomon gobbled his. Eve ate hers just as quickly, but rather than just wiping her mouth and belching like she used to do, she pulled a little mirror from her Coach clutch and began dabbing on that lip gloss again.
We took a few silly pictures and told a few jokes. Then I spotted a group of Soul cheerleaders greeting fans, and I told Eve and Solomon to take a picture with them.
As the cheerleaders arranged themselves on either side of my children, I looked through the lens of my iPhone and did a double take. I couldn't believe what I was seeing, so I wiped off the screen and looked again. Yep, it was real.
Eve was towering over the cheerleaders, and not just a little bit. She loomed over them like Gulliver over the Lilliputians, like the beanstalk over Jack, like an adjustment over the stock market.
The resultant picture showed a budding young woman. But it also showed something more. I haven't got much longer with my little girl. Any minute now she's going to be replaced by a teenager, and she'll be so different it'll be like a never-ending scene from "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."
Gone are the days when Eve was a bright-eyed, talkative 2-year-old, who had the power to make me do anything. She made me try on clip-on earrings. She made me rock her baby dolls, and in "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"-type moments, she forced me to color-coordinate ensembles plucked from the hundreds of frilly things our relatives purchased for her.
Perhaps the most famous of her exploits was connected to a gift from my aunt - a little pink phone with sequins, feathers and a heart in the middle of its musical dial pad.
"Hewwo?" Eve would say, as she grabbed the feather-laden phone and dialed my mother.
This usually happened in the evening when I came home from work. I'd sit down to dinner, and since Eve and LaVeta had already eaten, and Little Solomon was yet to be born, I was alone at the table. There was usually just one piece of chicken between Eve's feather phone and myself. I'd hurriedly bite into it, hoping that the distraction would keep me out of the conversation.
"Hi, Mom - Mom!" Eve would say happily.
My mother wasn't answering. I knew it. Eve knew it. It was a toy phone. Nobody ever answered. But that didn't stop Eve from holding out the phone in the hope that I, too, would allow my imagination to run wild.
She'd look up at me with those big, hopeful eyes, and I'd do something no human being has ever been able to make me do: I'd put down my chicken. Then I'd take the phone, raise it to my ear and hold a pretend conversation with my mother.
I think of those days now and then, especially when I look at my statuesque daughter and realize she'll soon be a young woman.
I know I'll be proud of her, even as she grows more independent. But I hope there will always be room for her to hand me that pink feathery phone and ask me to have one of those funny conversations.
No matter how old she gets, Dada will have time to say hewwo.
Solomon Jones is the author of 10 books, including his latest novel, The Dead Man's Wife (Minotaur Books), and the humor collection Daddy's Home: A Memoir of Fatherhood and Laughter. The married father of three has been featured on NPR and CNN, and has written on parenting for Essence and other publications. He created the literacy program Words on the Street. His column appears Tuesdays. More at Solomonjones.com.