Eighteen years, eleven months and 6 days after I was born, I held you in my arms for the first time after three days of the most exhausting, excruciating pain I would ever know. You looked nothing like me. Your hair was a dark brown and your eyes were definitely not blue like mine. I marveled at the way your fingers clutched my index finger when I ran it gently from your arm to the palm of your hand. I studied the shape of your face and held you close, memorizing your scent when I buried my face into your hair. I whispered the name I chose for you from that Counting Crows song over and over again. I loved how speaking your name felt as much as I loved hearing it.
My life began the day you were born.
I have said it before, but I will say it again. I am amazed at how quickly time goes. It has been eighteen years since I held you for the first time and I can still remember it like it was yesterday. I carry all these bits and pieces of our lives together in my mind and my heart. I think back to what our lives were like when you and your sister were little and sometimes I panic for us even though I know everything turned out ok in the long run. I've been thinking a lot about our talk we had when you were putting together ideas for your college essay a few weeks ago and once again, your perspective has given me a chance to piece some things together that have been right in front of me all along. I know that I came up short....a lot.....in what it is a mother is supposed to provide for her children when you two were little. You said that life didn't really get better until dad came along, and you were right. That was not a new revelation. Yes, there were things like food in the refrigerator, clothes that came from an actual store instead of hand me downs, gloves and boots that I didn't steal from the lost and found at the school and heat that didn't get turned off in January because I couldn't pay the bills. He gave to you the same thing he's given to me and all three of your sisters, and it was far more important than anything you can buy with money. He gave us all the simple truth that what we are in the present moment is not all that we are ever be destined to be. I spent so much time trapped in whatever particular moment I was in that it never occurred to me to look forward and change course. It wasn't until he came along that an idea like that was something that was even possible.
You know as well as I do that you can tell someone something until you're blue in the face but people will only learn when they make the choice to do so. Thankfully you learned early. I'm not going to say that every choice you have ever made has left me thrilled but you have made some unbelievable choices that have.
When you were 7, you announced at the dinner table in our little apartment that you and your sister decided that Dad should be your dad and you wanted to be adopted.
You decided the summer after your freshman year that you were better than the mistakes you made and you claimed your sobriety.
You decided last year that you wanted to graduate early, and even after you had to play catch up from a few years before, you got yourself on track to be done with high school in only 3 1/2 years.
Two weeks ago, you said you pulled a 4.0 for the term out of your ass, but I disagree with that a little. That didn't happen all on it's own, you made it happen.
I am proud of you for more reasons than you'll ever know, but I am most proud of you for investing in your own future. That's really all I have ever wanted for any of you. Most parents will tell you that they want more than anything for their children to be happy. I think that's a nice thought, but to be honest with you, I don't think that's the most important thing. I want you to be autonomous. I want you to make your own decisions. I want you to make mistakes and learn your own lessons. I want you to be just uncomfortable enough to motivate yourself to want more and expect more out of yourself. I want the weight of your struggles to be heavy enough to make you strong. I want there to be challenges, not because I don't want good things for you, but because you have always shined the brightest when you've earned your accomplishments. You have earned every last ounce of respect anyone, including yourself, has for you.
So here we are, my brown eyed girl. In nine short months, you'll be leaving for whichever college it is you've decided upon. I couldn't stop you even if I tried, but to be honest I wouldn't even want to. You've been a force to be reckoned with since the day you were born. You're stubborn and outrageous. You are passionate and hot-headed. You are loyal and love deeply. At times you are impossible and drive me absolutely insane, but I did not know what love was until I became your mother and I would have you no other way.
I can't wait to see what you stake your next claim on in your future, I have no doubt it will be spectacular.
Happy birthday boo. Your mama loves you.