To WonderGirl, On Her 18th Birthday
(To be opened November 14, 2023)
My dear, dear WonderGirl,
Once upon a time, not too long ago, sweet girl, you were WonderBaby. You were my WonderBaby.
When you turned one year old, you stood 32 inches tall. Your head was big and round with tufts of yellow hair, and your eyes were big and blue and sparkling with curiosity. You held that sweet round head high, your shoulders always back, your proud chest thrust out to meet the world. You marched through life, on two steady feet, belly-forward. You were as self-assured as a much older child, and yet, you were still my baby.
You taught yourself to walk (and roll and climb) at the first opportunity, and by your first birthday, you were running and clambering and exploring this big wonderful world as quickly and thoroughly as you could. You were as sure-footed as a child many times your age, but you were still my baby.
Your first recognizable words were Mama and Dada, but you very quickly added Hi, Bye, Book (buk) and Cat (ka) to your arsenal of words, which you always held in reserve until the moment that each would have its most devastating, heart-melting effect.
You loved to explore, and to learn, and by the time you turned one year old, you had figured out how to get past baby gates and how to open doors and you made it clear, with every step, that nothing would hold you back. You were always looking for new faces, new things, new landscapes, but you always kept one eye on the whereabouts of your Mommy, or your Da. You delighted at encountering both the familiar and the strange. You were fearless, but you were, always, my baby.
On your first birthday, you started the day with a squeal of delight, and spent the morning racing about the house, chasing cats and pulling books from the shelf and refusing breakfast because everything was just too interesting and there were just too many things to do and I looked at you and I thought, what a powerful, powerful little person my baby is. Such a little person. But still my baby.
I looked at you and I was astounded: my baby, turning into a little girl. My heart pounded and swelled and broke, just a little bit, as it expanded to contain the flood of love and the flood of hope and the flood of fear. You were growing, as I watched. You were becoming you, ever more you, and, so, ever less me. The time and distance from your birth, one year prior, was so great that for a moment I thought that, if I were to look back, really, I would not be able to see across that distance. At the moment of your birth, you were still part of me, flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood. As I looked at you on your first birthday, I saw – and thrilled and wept for seeing – that you were so rapidly becoming you.
And now, so many years, you are you. I know this, without having yet seen it.
I don’t know you – the grown-up you, the you of your future, of my future - yet. I’m writing this on the occasion of your first birthday: there are many years still to come before I know the grown-up you, the you who will read this letter and wonder at her mother's sentimentality. I’m only just starting to know you, even though, in so many respects, I already know you better than I do any other being, and even though it will be many, many years before another human being knows you as well as I do. As remarkable as it seems to say so, I am only just now - in this, your first year - starting to know you. It is my hope, my wish, my intention that I will always strive to know you, to understand you. It is my wish, my hope - however misguided it may turn out to be, at times - that you will always let me.
I don’t know what will happen (what has happened, if we are truly looking backward, from the vantage of your 18th year) between your first and your eighteenth birthdays. I don't know, yet, the stages that you will go through. I know that there will be much joy, much laughter, many smiles. I know that there will be much love, and many hugs. I know that we will have shared all of these things, in spades, by the time you read this letter.
I know, too, that we will have shared many tears. We will have shared pain. I’m certain that there will have been misunderstandings, resentments, confusion between us. I’m certain that there will have been many, many times that you will have felt such a great distance from me – and I from you – that the fact of our closeness, the fact of the bond of flesh and blood and heart between us, will have been forgotten, lost somewhere over the horizon of the space between us, mother and daughter.
But that fact – the fact that you are my flesh, my blood, my soul, my heart - will, always, remain. For as much as you grow and live and live and grow and become you – wonderful, brilliant, beautiful you; sure-footed, self-assured, fearless you – you will always be mine, you will always be my heart.
You will always, always be my baby.
I love you.
November 14, 2006
Happy Birthday, Baby. Happy Birthday.