Growing up, I knew your arms were the safest place I could be. I remember our backyard, the one that overlooked the woods. My play set with the slide that was barely big enough for me to sit on your lap and slide down sat in the middle of the yard. Our corgi Samantha ran in circles so fast that her little legs couldn't keep up with her body. Those woods held our fort. You taught me how to walk through a wooded area, step on the branches. You always led the way and held the thorns out of my path. Sam followed, of course. Climbing on the mysterious walls of our fort was the highest place I could be. That backyard shaped me.

Our living room amazed me. We had OnDemand and I remember watching you do the "running man." The coffee table was always shifted to the side to make room for our dance parties. And when we wrapped Sam in the blanket and swung her back and forth... I will have those memories forever. Christmas exploded once a year in that living room and you were always there to put the batteries in toys. You were well-equipped with funny voices to accompany any toy imaginable. I was a GirlScout back in the day, just a teeny Daisy scout. I remember our Daddy-Daughter dance. That picture is my favorite one.

Our living room wasn't just for dance parties. It was a concert hall for our many performances. You introduced me to bands way before my time. The SchoolHouse Rock CD floated through the air more often than not. You and mom would sing "Three is a Magic Number" repeatedly and we would all congregate on the couch. It was the three of us. I was your little girl.

Granted, life wasn't always rainbows and butterflies. I was the child who threw insane temper-tantrums and you let me stomp around my room. No intervention happened until I started to lightly toss furniture around the room (wink wink) and my doorknob found its way into the wall. Sorry. Luckily, those moments were few and far between. Nevertheless, everything was a learning experience. However, I do think I inherited a teensy bit of your temper. Those moments taught me life lessons that I will use daily.

You watched me grow up through my nineteen years and I can't imagine that it was easy. Soon enough, I began to come home talking about boys. Yet, you never failed me on Valentines Day. February 14th would roll around and you would greet me with flowers and chocolate. My first valentine. My first guy. My dad. You made a point to always remind me that you were my first, and if I recall, only, valentine.

To this day, I don't know exactly why those ruins existed in those woods. But, as I knew then and I remember now, holding your hand and climbing around on those walls was the most magical experience. In college, I realized that you can't just step on the thorns to protect me anymore. I have to look for the poison ivy myself and fall off the walls of our fort a few times on my own. The dance parties still happen, but they aren''t just the two of us anymore. My dance parties these days involve way more people who have been drinking just enough for me to be reminded that it's not me and you against the world anymore. Music includes meaningless lyrics these days and you aren't there to skip the song. But, you should know that I take those lessons with me.

I have dance parties in my dorm room, both by myself and with friends who love me. I chose my own playlist to listen to and watch as my music taste bleeds into yours. That temper, well it's still there, I promise. And Valentine's Day? A lot of girls are already scrambling to find a valentine. But me? I have a very permanent valentine right at home and forever in my heart.

Daddy, I will always be your little princess no matter where I go.