There are times when I see her so clearly, I think she might be real.
I’ll be sitting next to one of my best friends, watching her daughter cheer at half time, discussing just how beautiful and awesome her daughter is, and I see her so clearly. My shadow girl. My beautiful, awesome, self-assured almost 16-year-old daughter out there too. Her long brown hair is in a ponytail with those ridiculously large cheerleading bows; she has gorgeous just-got-out-of-braces teeth, long legs and a smile that lights up the room; she is self-assured, confident and amazing. She’s catching the eye of a boy in the stands she’s been talking to for a while; she’s giggling in between cheers with her best friend.
Other times, I’m sitting with my BFF, listening to her daughter tell us about musical tryouts, or coming home sweaty from soccer practice, or talking about Project Runway or laughing with Gabe and I’ll see her again. My shadow girl. I can see her so clearly I could cry. She’s rolling her eyes at me, she’s punching Gabe on the arm making fun of me with him, she’s talking about how she might get to play varsity this weekend, she and Gabe are counting down the days until they get their licenses and thinking about summer jobs.
Other times, Matt and I are out to the movies and I’ll see a group of teenage girls and she’s there. My shadow girl. She’s getting popcorn and a Coke and checking her phone and laughing with her friends and finding the perfect seat for the movie. They’re talking about that teacher that drives them crazy, that cute boy who just moved into town, what they’re going to do for spring break.
Many times, I’ll be teaching my class and she’s there. My shadow girl. She’s the quiet, but not too quiet, one at the back who always does her homework, participates in class, says hello and thank you and smiles. She’s polite, funny, smart and involved in school. She’s one of those students you just wish you could clone because they’re so awesome and make teaching so fun and worthwhile.
She’s sitting next to me on the couch watching This Is Us and crying along with me at all the sentimental parts. She’s letting me paint her nails and then she paints mine. We’re going shopping. We’re raiding each other’s closet. We’re sitting in the living room reading books. We’re talking about politics and celebrities and college. She’s telling me about this boy she likes. She’s sharing stories about her friends.
She’s there. She’s everywhere. But she’s nowhere.And as much as I am head over heels in love with my daughter, I would give anything to meet that shadow girl.