And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Anticipation: noun. The act of looking forward. Pleasurable expectation.

Sometimes a Moment hasn’t happened yet, and it already causes great happiness. Anticipation. Many of us hear that word and think of the old Heinz Ketchup commercial where the song “Anticipation” is sung as the camera follows the slow release of ketchup from its bottle. That was a good commercial, though I’m not overly crazy about ketchup. But anticipation can also mean so much more than a condiment.

In August of 2019, my oldest daughter, Katie, moved away to Lafayette, Louisiana, to teach math at the University of Louisiana. I watched her go with great grief. She was the first, and so far, the only, child of all four to really truly fly the coop. My sons live here, in Waukesha, and my daughter Olivia is still in college, which is 20 minutes down the road. Katie first went away the furthest when she attended grad school in Tallahassee, Florida, but then she returned here to earn her PhD at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. I visited her often in Tally, and she came home fairly often too. When she left for Lafayette, for the permanence of a job, I still figured it would be like the Tally experience. We would go back and forth.

She didn’t come home for Christmas that year, as moving is expensive, and so is airfare. I didn’t like it, but I figured I would make a trip down in spring. For the first time, one of my kids was living somewhere that I couldn’t picture. She was living someplace I’d never been. And so I looked forward to the spring of 2020.

But, well, COVID.

Consequently, I haven’t set my own eyes on my daughter since August 2019, other than through a screen. I haven’t hugged her. Haven’t walked alongside her, haven’t taken her shopping for her birthday, haven’t met her for coffee at Starbucks.

It’s been a long two years and eight months.

On Saturday, I am flying to Lafayette. And I am going to see my daughter.

Anticipation. It’s a moment of happiness that exists now, and it keeps growing bigger. By the time I actually see her, actually hug her, it will be a moment of undeniable joy.

All week, I’ve been over my head and out of my head with memories of this little girl.

The way she wanted to always be in a dress, because she was a girl and the brothers were boys, but she also wanted to do everything they did. Ever see a little girl try to stand at the toilet to pee like the boys? Soaked socks.

The dance recitals.

The school telling me that they wanted to skip her at least two grades. Saying no, and hoping it was the right thing. It was.

Brushing her hair.

Pinky. Pinky was a Fischer Price pink and white checked ragdoll that I bought at a garage sale three days after Katie’s birth.  Teeny tiny Katie crushed that ragdoll to her face and it became the lovey she couldn’t live without. Except Fischer Price was no longer making them. I scoured rummage sales and thrift stores for years and bought one whenever I could find it. When one would wear out, Katie would take it with her to a nap and wake up to a Pinky who looked the same, but had a slightly different rattle. “She must have a cold,” I would say. She bought it. In my storeroom, there is a box of 21 Pinkies. I can’t stand to give them away.

Pride. So much pride in this girl, now woman, who took to math the way I took to writing. Whenever I traveled, I would look for any schools having book sales, and buy up any old math textbooks I could. It was how Katie had fun. When she moved to Tallahassee, I took a calendar I gave her with monthly illustrations of fractals, cut them out, and mounted them on her wall so her bed’s headboard would be mathy. I’ve given her math t-shirts and jewelry.

And so now. She’s been fully in my heart, but she’s also been a face, a voice, a line of type on a computer screen. For two years and eight months. On Saturday…well, on Saturday, she’ll be Katie. My girl.

Anticipation. The act of looking forward. Pleasurable expectation.

I can’t wait to define reunion.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Baby Katie. 6 weeks old.
Watching tv.
High school senior.
Katie and me, on one of the trips where I visited her in Tallahassee.
Teaching at a Tallahassee high school in between her master’s and PhD.
Coming back to Wisconsin to earn her PhD in math at UW – Milwaukee. Ready to take on the world!
Having coffee with the bright girl in yellow.

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