This piece was inspired by and written in homage to Van Harden’s annual reading of “I Trust You’ll Treat Her Well" (D. Valentine, R. Kellaway), once performed by one of Hollywood’s great Renaissance character actors, Victor Buono.
|May 12, 2010 -- Being a long-time fan of Van Harden’s work on WHO Radio, and having his rendition of “I Trust You’ll Treat Her Well” tug at my heart strings when we experienced our daughter’s first departure for school, I have long had this post-school bookend to Van’s piece floating in my head. I honestly couldn’t write this piece when my daughter, our only child, graduated from West Des Moines Valley High School in 2007, or for a few years thereafter, as the strong and very real feelings of life swiftly flowing by were too real. Now seems a good time to share this to a hopefully receptive audience, as I try to provide the bookend piece – or, perhaps more appropriately termed, the next chapter marker – for what Van started so many years ago in honor of watching his little girl skip off to school.
I Know You Taught Her Well
by John Busbee
Listen to Van read this poem: Click Here
Dear Universe: It seems like only yesterday when I addressed the World, to whom I bequeathed one little girl. The scope of my vision has expanded, as has hers. Remember? In a crispy dress…with two blue eyes…and a happy laugh that ripples all day long…and a flash of light blond hair that bounces in the sunlight when she runs.
The dress has been replaced mostly by jeans and T-shirts. But, she did look stunning in her first prom dress… all crispy and fresh.
Her eyes now sparkle with a special depth; as the possibilities of a world filled with opportunities grows in her imagination.
The happy laugh reaches further, now; an effortless laugh, which bubbles all day like an eternal spring of hope-filled waters.
And, through a wistful squint, I see that little girl of yesteryear is still very much inside the young woman of today. She is the same; yet, oh, so different, these twelve years later. And, yes, you did treat her well. And, taught her well.
She did learn to stand in lines, to wait by the alphabet for her name to be called, to tune her ears for the sounds of school-bells and deadlines. At least, mostly.
She did learn that some people don’t mean what they say, and some people won’t say what they mean. And, that some people can be just plain mean. I’ve held her when the hurt lingers long past the action.
I eagerly harvested a continually growing bounty of Firsts. Writing: first complete alphabet, first complete word, first complete sentence. Tucked in that timeline were other, more endearing firsts: first signed Father’s Day card, first self-written gift tag.
She devoured new challenges and skills with an enthusiastic appetite. First musical instrument, first basket, first goal, first performance. Other firsts balanced these: first friend’s betrayal, first failure to achieve a big goal, first realization that the world must be met with a certain caution.
Through all of this, I trusted you, World and Universe, and you did treat her well. She learned to meet disappointments and challenges with greater determination. And, this filled her life with many wonderful successes.
And at the end of this chapter of her life, she prepares for graduation. I look at that final school picture, placed carefully next to the previous eleven, and marvel at the blossoming of this young package of promise. She is part of our next generation of leaders, and you did teach her well.
After learning to share her with you, I feel less like I am losing my hold on her, and more like I am setting her free. I promise to be there whenever she needs me, and I stand side by side her many teachers and friends and mentors, as we watch her race towards her newest horizon.
And, on graduation day, before she dashed ahead to join her fellow high school graduates, she quickly turned back, flew into my arms with a hug and kiss, and whispered, “Thanks, Dad. I love you.”
|John Busbee (www.JohnBusbee.com) is a freelance artist living in Des Moines, where he continues to expand his cultural media network, The Culture Buzz (www.TheCultureBuzz.com). He wrote for ArtScene Magazine for years, and still contributes to DSM Magazine and many other independent print/online sources. He also works in film production and produces independent projects, from major special events to exhibitions to performances.