Happy birthday. For you today I want the most wonderful things; dancing and laughing and being with friends, having a good time, going out with friends. You’re 21 now, so you should go out and have a blast.
Unfortunately, today is your last day of classes before your final exams, so I have a feeling you won’t do any of those things. Heck, you spent most of your time over Thanksgiving with your nose buried in books, annoyed when I interrupted you. I could see your monitor, plastered with research for your upcoming presentation. I wondered when you’d take a break.
So I know, despite the fact that this birthday is one of those milestones kids look forward to, that you’re probably not going to enjoy it much. If it’s any consolation, I didn’t enjoy mine either.
I cursed you with this birth date, giving birth to you on the Sunday before *my* finals week. Its not like I planned that, but still, I feel responsible.
This birthday is emotional for me. It’s the moment you become an adult in every socially recognized way. It’s the final severing of the mother/child relationship, and the official launching of our relationship as adults. So forgive me my last chance at celebrating your childhood. I promise not to drag your baby pictures out every December 5.
This is my first picture of you. It was taken before we knew you had OI. We knew you were unhappy about something, but they hadn’t figured out what yet. This was the origin of you being my little rosebud; that fair skin, the pink lips and cheeks, you blossomed fair into my heart. This picture captures me falling in love with you.
You haven’t been a baby for a long time. I haven’t seen you as a baby for a long time. But there’s this weird thing that happens to parents; while simultaneously celebrating the amazing person our kid has become, we can also be sad that the baby they used to be is gone. I miss holding baby-you, smelling your hair, feeling your delicate, fragile fingers wrapping around my pinkie.
Here’s what you look like now. Confident and intelligent and capable and really independent.
I love texts and emails from you: each time you learn something new about yourself or the world that you want to share with me, and you text or Snapchat, I am thrilled. Every single communication is joy. This is watching my child *become* herself, and I’m so proud.
Here you are, age five, with your favorite person in the whole world, Elmo. You could spot Elmo merch from 10 miles away, only you called him “EhMo.” This was your first Elmo doll, but not your last. I suspect you’ll pass that little guy down to some lucky kid.
Here you are with Callan, who is four years younger (I had to ask!), when you were about five. You both had the same glossy, soft auburn ringlets. I sometimes wish yours had never straightened out.
Here we are fishing in Canada, where you’re five (again). I had to hold you and the fishing rod, lest you get pulled into the water by some mighty beast of a rock bass. I miss that blanket, lost on some trip across the border. Still makes me sad. It was your starry night blanket. I remember tucking it around you all snug and warm.
Here you are in kindergarten. The eagerness and excitement on your face here is how you encounter the world; ready to jump in with both feet, come on, what are you waiting for? Always. That’s my delicate flower. I can’t believe you were ever shy.
Your first pair of glasses, age 7. “Wooowwww…..Everything’s so BIG!” Since that day, you have seen the world very clearly. You’re one of the more clear-eyed individuals I’ve met. Far more able to comprehend this crazy place than I am. I admire that about you.
I loved when you found your old friends, Big Elmo and the well-loved dolphin from your Dolphin Phase. You crack me up when you demonstrate how easily you can fit in the overhead compartment. And you played the piano just one last time before it was shipped off to live with my friend. Always smiling. I know you can’t always smile, but that’s how I see you.
My sister and you are the two most important women in my life. Did you know you’re so much alike I call Tracey “Sophia” when we’re on the phone? You know that curse mothers make? “I hope you have a child JUST like you”? Somehow, the curse got bent, and I got a child just like my sister. It could have been MUCH worse, given my siblings. So, you know, thanks.
Your favorite cousin has always been Aidan. You have an inexplicable bond. You just get each other. Here you are, getting each other.
You are a magnificent human, uncompromising in your individuality, a staunch defender of the voiceless, protector of the weak, advocate for yourself and others. Mostly others, I notice. And you never, ever, ever quit. You are on your way. Wherever you go, people will know it. You’re the kind of person I wanted to grow up to be; fearless, intelligent, strong, defiant, purposeful.
I loved the child you were, and I love the woman you’ve become. I am excited to see you grow into your life.
I watch in wonder, thinking to myself “That’s my daughter.” Happy birthday, my Sophia.