Life with an Exclamation Mark


I took this picture in a little house in South Mississippi thirteen years ago before my daughter Hillary’s first day of kindergarten at Magnolia Park Elementary. Three years later, Katrina did shameful things to that little house, but this picture survives and brings its own flood of memories.

Yesterday, Hillary graduated from Malibu High School, and I am a proud and thankful dad.

You may recognize me from the NA (“Nostalgics Anonymous”) meetings, but I am not a sad nostalgic. Instead of asking What happened to my little girl?, I choose to say Look what happened to my little girl! The punctuation is important. Approaching life with a joyful exclamation mark is preferable to a despondent question mark.

As a nostalgia-holic, I began rummaging through old computer files and stumbled across a journal entry from when Hillary was six years old:

Recently, I was snuggling up with Hillary on the couch, tickling her and playing, her infectious giggle in steady use. I said something about her being my angel, and then I feigned seriousness and asked her, “Are you an angel, or are you just a regular human being?” She giggled her honest response, “I don’t know.” After a moment of playful reflection, she added, “I feel like a regular human being.”

I’m still not convinced but am as proud today as ever.

Whatever the marker in life—from first days to last days and all the big days in between—I side with Viktor Frankl in saying that although Attitude is a required course in life, there are several from which we get to choose. Instead of weeping for days long gone or frustrated longing for days yet to come, I choose to celebrate life’s markers with wide-eyed wonder.

Look what happened to my little girl!


12 responses to “Life with an Exclamation Mark

  1. Andrew Benton

    These are all really good. Thx.


    Sent from my iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

  2. leah singleton

    Al I have so enjoyed reading your work through years. This one is especially lovely about the wonderful person who is Hillary. if she is half the person of kindness and integrity that har mama and daddy are ( I know she is) she will go far in whatever she chooses through her journey that is life.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for making me cry at my desk on a Friday morning!! (note the punctuation)

    I am a fellow nostalgia-holic but usually the other kind. Maybe now I will remember this and have a more hopeful perspective 🙂

    Congrats Hillary!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I vote angel. Congrats to Hillary and her justifiably proud family!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great perspective about your beautiful daughter. We are facing my oldest child’s senior year & I plan to remember this. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Reblogged this on K'Cadences: Music, Inspiration & Cool Cats and commented:
    Inspirational Story: overcoming adversity yet celebrating the milestones. Also, this writer has an admirable perspective. Congratulations to you and your daughter! ❤ K

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Christine Thompson

    Tell everyone hello, and please congratulate Hillary. I am so happy Godhas continued to bless your gracious family. I wish you and yours all of the best.
    Love and God bless,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s