For my daughter, who I have yet to meet.
You are growing. Now, you are growing. As I write this, you are growing. You are where all daughters begin, before the body, and this place is good, and you’re growing. While you grow, I want you to know this:
1. Home is a choice. You choose your home.
2. You will love, always. And you will love who you love, even if they’re somewhere else.
3. Know that home has the potential to be plural. There are many places on this planet waiting to welcome you and give you a place to rest, grow.
4. I hope to be one of these places.
These steps will help you find your way home. I believe you could find your way at any time–it could take you one year, 20 years. But know you will find your way. Know I’m with you.
It’s nighttime now as I write this, and I want to tell you a story. Let’s start at the ocean.
Months ago, a few girls (about 12-years-old) pass me in the stairwell of a hotel. I am beachside—Daytona—for two days, one night. I need to get away from my city, Orlando, and write.
“Sorry,” one of the girls says. “Hi.”
I stop walking. “Hi.”
She looks up from her place on the stairwell. “Have a nice day,” she says.
The girl’s friend says, “Why do you always say that? Have a nice day?” and laughs.
At this moment I understand what it might be like to have daughters. I think of you. I know you know this.
But the ocean is only where we begin, where we start to understand. We can go to the road next. From Daytona to Orlando I take one big, fast road. I end up on smaller roads, in an area of Orlando called Little Vietnam. Sometimes here, a woman will walk into stopped traffic. She will point at the cars, extend her thin arm like a constellation. She has pointed to my car twice. I remember thinking,
Who is her mother?
She is a daughter.
When I was sitting near the ocean in Daytona, in that moment, you were there, and I felt like a mother. I needed to feel this way, to ground myself, to feel a part of me that others cannot see, that I was taught to believe did not exist until my belly would swell. Even if my egg did not drop once a month, if I were not egg, cycling, I would still feel this way, like a mother, waiting for time to propel itself like an arm, extended, bringing something sweet and heavy and sharp to me, saying, “Take care of.”
We are sweet, heavy and sharp beings. We are clay and cell and core. We are curve, salt.
The ocean waves are blue, curling.
If you wanted blue hair, I’d help you dye it if you asked me to. If you wanted to dye it alone, I’d give you towels if you wanted them. If you wanted to dye your hair blue with friends, I would give you extra money for more than one bottle of color.
If you wanted to write, I would give you a pen if you wanted one. Paper. Courage to wish and shape and grow.
I don’t know why water looks so brilliant when it reflects the light, or why I find solace on the edges of states, of countries, of continents.
When I was in California, sitting near the Salton Sea, finding a new home on the road, I breathed through Earth’s body and I claimed the whole thing as home, even places I’ve never been. When I find you, my daughter, you’ll breathe through Earth’s body, too, and that’s how I’ll know I’m yours.
I am writing this to understand something, to discover my body and to discover time, to trust time to bring you to me, to bring me to you. Go back to the ocean. I’m there. The sun is bright and the birds are flying a bit recklessly, a bit fast, like they want to be held by something greater, understand the freedom, the sharp inflection of their own song. You are there, a seed, a soul. I know you’re there. You are.
Ashley Inguanta is a writer and photographer who nomads around America sometimes. She’s the Art Director of SmokeLong Quarterly, and her first collection, The Way Home, is forthcoming with Dancing Girl Press in November. You can find her at thewayhomeproject.com and ashleyinguanta.com.
Editor: Olga Feingold