I wasn't sure I was going to write this letter here, but I just kissed you goodnight and realized I had to. Because suddenly you exist in the same world as green juice, the internet, social media...you know how to pronounce foyer, who Putin is, you follow #timesup on Instagram. I realized that this letter is not some future possible something you might read someday from the backseat of your flying car, but a now, hit publish and there you might be. Hello.
Oh Zo. How are you 12? Where did the time go? A dozen years ago I gave birth to you, but you gave me life. You with your impossibly large eyes and that freckle on your lip. Next week you get braces for that one tooth that won't grow in, and it's not so much that I am afraid of change, but I am afraid of how quickly I will get used to you with braces. I am afraid that one day I won't remember how your teeth looked "when you were little," the happy round shape of Chiclets, as if a child drew them in with a very soft crayon.
Here we are where there are edges, and I am still trying to cover them with my palm so that you don't hit your head. Of course you are too tall for that now. At 12, I watch as you and your friends try on growing up like a pair of my shoes that even I am not comfortable wearing. Walking around town by yourself, posting selfies, talking about another girl's hoops as if to measure something ineffable and uncomfortable by the circumference of earrings. Some of your friends have boyfriends. Other friends are no longer really friends at all. Today you got a bad grade on a math quiz, and I know how these things can splinter. But I also know that you are unflinchingly kind. You are not afraid to be soft, and it is my birthday wish for you that this softness is unbreakable, that the boys and the posts, the crop tops and Instagram stories of places you were not invited, that these do not make you hard. That you always know that there is a center, as shy and as brazen as a magnolia, a place where you belong and are loved. And that place is inside of you.
I love you, I love you, I love you, my sweet petunia-faced birthday girl. I cannot believe how lucky I am to get to be your mom.
11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5 (too pregnant and cranky), 4, 3, 2, 1 (pre-blog)
Thank you for posting and sharing! I love seeing her birthday posts, as my daughter is the same age and you eloquently capture their beauty and my fear/excitement as they grow.
You write so beautifully in these posts about your children. (And in general, but the birthday posts seem to have some extra-special distillation of maternal love and insight....) I distinctly remember sitting in my sister-in-law’s house in Alaska, while pregnant, reading your blog post on Z’s potty training, and thinking “wow, someday our girl will be THAT BIG!” My daughter’s now 9, and you’re still giving windows into what our life will look like when she’s THAT big...! Happy birthday, Z.
She is such a lovely girl and will be a fabulous woman. This is thanks to you, her lovely, fabulous and smart Mom. I am sure there is a place for Dad in all that too. She has grown to this because of you both and the great family you have. So proud to be part of it. Happy Birthday Zoey!
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