The Graduate

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 1, 2004

Has anybody seen my little girl?

For the person that coined the term – &uot;time sure flies when you’re having fun&uot; – they hit the proverbial nail squarely on the head in the case of Danielle Rae Bryant.

Dani, as her mom and I call her, came into this world shortly past 2 a.m. on Sunday, July 21, 1985. I’ll take to my grave the emotion I felt when I first laid eyes on my child. I was standing in the maternity ward viewing room at Roanoke-Chowan Hospital when, suddenly, the curtain opened and there she was – a beautiful child with jet black hair who was screaming at the top of her lungs (she hasn’t been quiet since).

Tears streamed down my face as I took in that beautiful bundle of joy. Honestly, thinking back to that time and place, there still are no exact words to describe the feeling I experienced in the wee hours of a Sunday morning.

Fast forward 18 years. It’s a Saturday morning in late May, 2004. Once again, tears began to fill my eyes as I gazed upon my beautiful daughter. This time she wasn’t screaming at the top of her lungs. Rather, dressed in a blue gown, complete with cap and tassel, Danielle Rae Bryant walked down the aisle at Mount Tabor Baptist Church and received her high school diploma.

Where did all the time go? I can remember almost like it was yesterday when my wife and I accompanied Dani inside Ahoskie Christian School for her first day of pre-school. A short while later, my little girl was in kindergarten at Ahoskie Elementary School. I turned my head just for a moment and she has completed her secondary education courses.

What happened to my little girl? One day she’s riding her bike in the driveway and the next she’s leaving that same location on four wheels as she rides away with her friends.

Has anybody seen my darling little daughter? One day she’s dressing up her dolls for the prom and the next she’s stepping out of her room, adorned in a stunning outfit, en route to her own special night.

Dani – where are you? One day you’re having cake and ice cream for your birthday and the next year some young boy is at my door wanting to take you out for dinner and a movie.

Those were just a few of the thoughts that raced through my mind this past Saturday morning as I watched my little girl experience her high school graduation. For those of us whom have experienced that identical feeling, it’s one you’ll never forget. Graduation day will never be erased from the annals of our minds.

Dani’s day was simple, yet unique. She and only one other girl, Melissa Jenkins, were the lone two graduates this year from Roanoke-Chowan Christian Academy. Yet it makes no difference if there were two or 200, graduating from high school remains as a big deal. No matter in what direction one chooses to take in life, you never lose the sense of pride and accomplishment gained during those 12 years.

A high school diploma is a key that unlocks many doors. It acts as a gateway as a child enters adulthood. A high school graduate can either immediately choose to enter the workplace or continue to further their education. Whatever road they choose, no one can take away the fact that they have crossed one huge hurdle in their lives – the fact that they’ve stayed the course for 12 years and earned the right to be called a high school graduate.

A high school graduate also acts as an inspiration for others. Dani’s underclassmen friends at her school and other institutions of learning can follow her lead into adulthood. If she can reach the finish line, so can others.

No matter what road my child chooses to take from this point forward, she must know that her dad supports that decision. Her mother and I have woven a cocoon around our budding young creature, nurturing and protecting her for 18 years. Now our beautiful little butterfly can choose to leave the nest, forever knowing the webbing from that cocoon will always be there to act as a safety net if she decides that home is the place to remain.

Even though my tear-filled eyes followed her every step down the aisle on Saturday morning, I still found myself asking the question – &uot;where’s my little girl?&uot; I know exactly where Dani is – where she’s always been and always will be – right here in daddy’s heart.