Have I ever told you the story of your birth?
You were incredibly wanted. When your older brother Nathaniel was about two and a half, I started thinking about the age gap between me and MY older brother, which I had always thought was optimal (probably because that’s what Grandma and Grandpa told me): two and a half years. I wanted Nathaniel to have a sibling close in age since your older sister Jessica was an only child for nearly 12 years until Nathaniel came along and she complained bitterly about it for years. I began to wax rhapsodic in my head about the wonderful playtimes I had with my older brother, and wanted the same for Nathaniel and whomever came next (that’s you). Daddy thought another baby sounded good, so we got started doing the things that parents do when they want to be parents. (I’ll skip ahead now.)
Nothing happened. For a long time. I got worried. Was there something wrong with me? I started to obsess. Why wasn’t this baby coming? I saw doctors, took my temperature daily, and joined a forum for women experiencing infertility. I saw an acupuncturist who assured me she could help me have a baby. Months went by. More than a year. I was sad. I wanted you.
Then we bought a new house. You remember that house; it’s where you spent your first 5 1/2 years. By the time the deal went through, I knew I was pregnant with you. I guess that’s where you wanted to live.
On January 15, 2000, we went to the mall. In those days, Daddy liked going to the mall as a thing to do. We seldom bought much (or anything at all), but we’d walk around and look at things for awhile and then go home. So there we were. At the mall. And I was in labor. You had decided to be born. I remember standing in Bloomingdale’s, wondering how much longer I could stand up with the pains. I remember driving us home that day, stopped in traffic, wondering whether I could keep it together to drive. I remember making a grilled cheese sandwich for Nathaniel so he’d have something to eat that night. I remember Daddy stopping at McDonald’s on the way to the hospital (I wasn’t doing the driving this time), and I was wondering whether the delay in stopping was going to mean you were going to be born inside a black Jaguar.
Hmm, I kind of like that image. Black jaguar. Could it be your power animal?
We got to the hospital by early evening. I don’t remember the time; I was thinking about breathing and relaxing and babies. But everything happened fast after that and you were born at 9:45pm.
Welcome to the world, little one.
And now look at you. Teenager. So tall. So impossibly wise from just 13 years on the planet. You amaze me.
And now? I feel closer to you than almost anyone. Sure, I’ve known you all your life, but the last 4 and a half of your years we’ve been apart by 3000 miles. It would have been easy to let our hearts become distanced as well. Easy, maybe, but heartbreaking. Every day I am thankful for our texts, our emails. I love reading your writing, seeing the world through your eyes in the photos you take and share with me, and walking with you as you become a wise young woman.
Since you are 13 today, I have 13 wishes for you.
Wish #1: Friendship
I love that you have friends now who “get” you. I felt very happy today knowing that one of your friends made you a birthday card, and I love the photos you take of you and your friends. When you were very little, you loved deeply and hard, and the force of your deep hard love was more than some people knew how to receive. As you get older I see you choosing friends who really understand the important things in life as you see them. I suspect your tribe is very near. Waiting for you.
Wish #2: Creativity
To keep you from writing would be like chopping off your arms. I adore that about you. I hope you keep at it. You have real talent, buckets of it, and it’s only a matter of time until we see your name on a byline or on the cover of a book. I know it.
I love also that you wanted a camera for Christmas. That you wanted paints. I know your soul will shine through your photos and your art the way it does in your writing. Creating is a part of you. I hope you keep honoring it. Honoring this big part of you is like breathing — if you stop you die inside, a little at a time. I don’t think that will happen for you.
Wish #3: Family
I am your Mama and I always will be. I know you know that. I also know how deeply and fiercely you love everyone else in your family: Nathaniel, Eric, Daddy. I’m sad that there are 16 years between you and Jessica, years that stretch like miles in real time. One day you might get to know one another. And Nathaniel? Whatever is distancing you now, I think that will change and one day you’ll find the closeness between you again that you once had when you played Legos and made stories about Ree. Chalk it up to teenager stuff (and now you’re one of them), and I think you can just put the future closeness in your pocket for now to bring out again later when the time feels right.
Wish #4: Emotions
I loved it when you told me that you cry. A lot. And that you feel better when you do. The more you make your emotions your friends, the happier I think you’ll be.
Wish #5: Adventure
Try new things! There is a whole world out there. So much to experience!
Be brave! The place just on the other side of your comfort zone is rich with possibility.
I love that you are flying here to Seattle tomorrow, alone. What a grand feeling, knowing that you have the power to widen your world.
Wish #6: Health
Considering everything that is going on for me now (the cancer thing), I wish good health for everyone these days but especially for the people I love most. Eat good food. Move your body. Express your soul. Do all those things and you’ll be fine — not just fine but awesome. I want awesome for you.
Wish #7: Fun
Be silly. Goofy, even. I’ve learned that the more fun a person has, the more their soul lights up. Find all the things that are fun for you and do them. Who cares how you look or what people think? We really only have ourselves to please. Do the things that light up your soul and everything else just isn’t as important.
Wish #8: Animal Companions
Oh, you’re all over this one! You wanted a pet since you were very small. And now you have Prince Midnight Blue, aka “kitty”. He’s perfect for you. Big fluffy tail. White furry paws. Long black coat, so elegant. He will love you well into your 20’s, and you’ll have someone to care for, to tell your secrets to, and to keep your heart company.
Wish #9: See The World
I know you don’t remember much of our travels way back when you were very little, but it’s not really a bad thing that in order to remember places like Ireland, Finland, and St. Maarten you’ll have to go back. I hope you do, and I hope there are other places around the world worthy of your experiencing them. We’ve talked about Switzerland. I think you’ll get there. Asia? Africa? Australia? That’s only the beginning of the world alphabet.
Wish #10: Learning
I love that you love school. That you are curious about why things are. I hope you stay curious and stay hungry to understand the world around you. I don’t believe there is time enough in one person’s life to know all the things one could possibly know, but that doesn’t stop me from trying. Life is a delight. Our world is amazing.
Wish #11: Rest
I’ve come to appreciate the healing power of true rest. Not everyone rests the same way. What is restful to me might not be restful to you. Find your True Rests and do them, often. It will help you recharge, heal, and be ready to take on your next adventure.
Wish #12: Love
You said at New Year’s that one of your wishes this year is to find love for yourself, the kind of love that is for you alone. Relationships are wonderful, maddening, painful, and ultimately always beautiful. When you open your heart to someone it grows larger, and as you navigate relationships of different sorts in your life you’ll also grow your heart with the gift of all the hearts opened to you. I can’t wait to hear you tell me you’re in love one day. This year? Maybe. Some day? Most certainly. You are an amazing being, and I know there are people out there who will see how your light shines.
Wish #13: Be Open to What Comes Next
It’s almost impossible to see what is around the corner in life. And there lies much of the beauty of life itself — that we can’t plan for our happinesses and we can’t plan for our heartaches, but that life unfolds and we discover who we are through the unfolding. 2013 might not end the way it began, but I can tell you that however it does end you’ll have had experiences that you’ll never forget. Drink them in. Make them yours.
13 is a big year. I can’t wait to see how it unfolds for you. You are an amazing being, a bright light, and every day I feel joy because you are on the planet. I am blessed to be your Mama, now and for always.