Five times the farewells

Today I say goodbye to not one daughter, but five. Adios Kiera. So long Kiki. Sayonara Munder. Ciao Butler. Goodbye Poggy.

Oberlin College and Conservatory, one of the finest liberal arts colleges in the country, welcomes my daughter of many names. It wouldn’t surprise me if it found a way to bestow a few more on her before she’s done.

Kiera, the name on her birth certificate, was the extraordinarily hard-working student who got into Oberlin. The girl who competed in a one-way academic war with her older brother. When he graduated second at Nativity, she pushed herself to finish first (tied with oldest friend Allison). When he got accepted into one of the nation’s best universities, she was determined to get into a school of similar renown. My counting skills aren’t strong enough to tally the number of times I entered her room to say goodnight, only to find her finally conked out, her schoolwork still across her chest as she studied late into the evening. It’s extremely gratifying to see that insane work ethic rewarded with her acceptance into such an outstanding school.

Butler is the name given to her by her older brother when a Bulldog basketball game happened to be on TV, and is a fitting name for her when she’s in her public servant guise. The girl who joined the United Fund’s Power of Youth group as a mere freshman. Over the past four years, she and her cohorts raised close to $50,000 for various community endeavors. Butler is the girl who, sparked by a video of injustice, decided to pursue a career in civil rights work, the ultimate manifestation of her desire to leave the world a little better than she found it.

Kiki, the name given to her by her younger brother when he struggled to say Kiera, is the performer. The girl who amused her siblings and friends with a charming English accent or spot-on impersonations of Sarah Palin and Shakira. The Andrean Theatre Company member who stole damn near every scene she was in for four years. Her freshman-year, impromptu, unapproved dance number during the troupe’s performance of Zombie Prom remains one of the funniest and most bizarre things I’ve seen. Her explanation why she went off script, “It was your fault. You were a terrible audience. You weren’t laughing at any of our jokes, so I had to do something,” was indisputably Kiki.

Munder’s the soccer player. My nickname for her, a shortened version of the equally ridiculous Shortmunder. There were few things in this life that gave me greater pleasure than watching her on the pitch, controlling the back, exhorting her teammates and, of course, launching throw-ins over the heads of surprised opponents who couldn’t believe a girl that small could be that damn strong. For three years she almost never left the field. So it was fitting that, as beaten up as she was from 80 minutes of Lawrenceburg thuggery and the hard turf at IUPUI’s stadium, she was on the field when the 59ers claimed their first state championship in soccer last fall. She achieved this all while remaining true to her nature, offering regular “Thank yous” to each and every boy and girl who handed her balls before her throws and to the fans who complimented her, even as she raced back into position. She fouled infrequently and routinely offered to help her opponent up when she did. She proved one didn’t need to sacrifice sportsmanship and character to be successful. Others could take note.

That she is joining Oberlin’s women’s soccer team, giving me a few more chances to watch her play over the next four years, thrills me to no end. I’m sure I will make the four-hour trip across the Indiana Toll Road/Ohio Turnpike more often than is recommended for either me or my vehicle.

Finally, and perhaps most meaningfully, is Poggy, the name her older brother called her before she even exited the womb. Poggy is the unique, true-to-herself goofball who has been an immense source of pride for 18 years. Poggy’s the three-year-old girl who returned home soaking wet from a trip to the mall, explaining her condition to her mother with a simple, “I fell in the pond, kersplash.” She’s the girl who at her first high school dance casually informed her date, “I don’t slow dance,” so she spent those lame ballads doing a slowed-down version of her fast dancing. Her first date with her first high school boyfriend took her to three playgrounds and a hardware store, because damn if she doesn’t like a good hardware store visit.

Poggy never met a silly hat she didn’t have to have. She never saw a pair of ugly socks she didn’t think would go great with her Catholic school uniform. And on the occasion of her 16th birthday, she proudly walked the school halls sporting the sash and tiara her mother gave her that morning to commemorate that special day.

She’s never doubted who she was, and what makes her happy. She never felt the need to conform to others’ expectations or preferences. If you didn’t like her, that was on you. As a person, I envy that. As a father, I treasure it. I knew she might make mistakes. But if she did, they would happen because that was her choice, not someone else’s. That’s remarkably reassuring to an old man.

All five of these wonderful young women leave today. Our home will be a lot emptier.

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