Twelve years! It’s a bit much to wrap my brain around. You arrived on this earth twelve years ago — a beautiful bundle of pink to shake up our baby blue home. I was the only one who knew you were a girl. Dad didn’t want to know — he always preferred the surprise. So I had the ultrasound technician tell me privately, and I secretly bought and stashed away pink frilly dresses, purple jumpers, enough hair bows to tame the tresses of Bigfoot.
And then, on July 17th, you arrived. You, with your cherubic face and your big, beautiful, deep sea eyes. You were the sweetest baby, content to sit and watch your big brothers with wonder and awe. You’d suck on the index and middle fingers of your right hand while simultaneously rubbing your blankie on your cheek. And did I mention how much you loved that blankie? The one that still sits on your bed? We used to call it the Skanky Blankie because you would never surrender it to the washing machine. And when, by some miraculous act of nature or a sneak attack from your Mama, it did make it to the washer, you’d sit in front of that chugging machine, starfish fingers splayed out on the front-loader glass while you’d cry, “My blankie! My blankie!”
But those are the stories of your babyhood. You’re twelve today, right on the cusp on teenage-dom, rooted safely and securely in Tween. This has been a big year for you, an emotional roller coaster of the highest highs and the lowest lows. We moved you away from your family and your friends and coaxed you into an unwelcome Southern adventure. Oh, you weren’t happy with us. I’ll never forget the sound of your heartbroken, keening wails when we told you that Dad accepted the offer at Mississippi State. You’re tight with your girls. You had a solid circle of friends. I get that, Baby. I do. You and your Mama are very similar in that way. There’s comfort and security in what we know, in what we’ve chosen to love and attach ourselves to. And the unknown is scary.
But a wise woman (one we both know and love) once told me that “fear is incapacitating and weak and serves no purpose.” And so, you and I, we packed up our things, loaded them into the U-Haul, grabbed those stinky boys, and headed to Starkville. We left pieces of our hearts in Zionsville, with our friends.
And then we found out how much our hearts were able to expand, how many more friends were waiting to find us in the South. I know it wasn’t easy for you. That big, scary middle school with the armed security guards woke up the butterflies in my stomach — I can’t even imagine what was rumbling in yours as you marched through those doors like a warrior on your first day of sixth grade.
I know it wasn’t easy. It’s still not easy. There’s still a learning curve. But I’ve met some of your adorable new friends. I’ve heard you giggling with them in the darkness of your Purple-icious room in the wee hours of the morning. You’ve expanded your tribe, widened your heart, learned how to let new friends in without letting the others go. It’s a life lesson you’ve learned well, my love. One that will serve you forever.
I’ve watched you face disappointment in a foreign environment that wasn’t always friendly and accommodating to “the new kid.” I’ve wiped away your tears, held you while you cried, celebrated your successes. And oh, what success you’ve had! Straight As, Junior National Honor Society, Writers Club, making the 7th grade volleyball team! The list goes on and on.
Sure, there have been slammed doors and angry words and fits of resentment along the way. From you. From me. That’s the way a journey is defined, in its ups and downs. And you and I, my love, whether you like it or not, are very similar. Emotional, dramatic, loving, easily hurt, quick to anger, slow to forgive. You are both blessed and cursed with the best and the worst of your Mama.
But that heart — oh, that heart of yours! It just keeps getting bigger and broader and more expansive. It’s gaining depth, too, not just breadth. It’s opening itself up to what life has to offer — both good and bad — and learning how to traverse it. I’m going to say it again (even though it makes you roll your eyes with annoyance every time): “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” You’re going to make a big, beautiful dent in this world, MC. It’s yours for the taking.
Happy Birthday to my beautiful girl, the one who has been through at least three new hairstyles in the last twelve months. The one who can burp the alphabet right along with her brothers, the one who doesn’t take shit from anyone — especially those named Sam, Gus, and George. The one who treats us to a mini-concert with every shower. Who will it be tonight… Gotye, Adele, Kelly Clarkson? The one who loves spending time in the kitchen, mixing, experimenting, making a colossal mess (just like her Daddy). The one whose legs are getting longer, whose wit is getting more sophisticated, whose arms still aren’t too big to wrap around her Mama’s expanding middle. (Oh, that Rotel!) You are on the verge of becoming a young woman… but I’ll take you right here, right now, and I’ll squeeze every beautiful moment out of your Tween-ness. From your freckled nose to your purple toenails, I love you with every single ounce of my being.
You are my beloved, my heart, my one and only daughter. Thank God for this day, this July 17th, when — in the year 2000 — we were gifted with beautiful, wonderful YOU.
Now for that homemade cake…