Happy Birthday, my sweet Alma. It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a letter to you. In the first couple years of your life I did them more regularly, as they were the easiest and only thing I could write about honestly and naturally. That’s the neatest part about loving you: it’s never been a question.
This weekend we’re in Maine at the house your daddy rented for the season. You, me, and two of your cousins are sharing the kiddos room (you laugh at the sight of me in a twin bed) and your grandma, grandpa, uncle, aunt and daddy are situated throughout the rest of the house. Fresh snow is still falling as I write this morning: a sea of white, from sky to ground. I look across the roof and then the pond and then the road that’s taking you and daddy to the mountain again.
You’ve learned to ski so well this season—even with the brief setback of breaking your arm on Christmas by tripping on your daddy’s feet—and this makes him and his family so proud. Skiing is their thing, the family rite of passage, and although this is your 5th year on the slopes, you’ve come into it as your own now. Last night at the dinner table you instructed your younger cousin, It’s kind of like walking, but you have to lean your body one way, then the other. You’ll get the hang of it.
You’ve become a little girl this year. A real-life kid. Your body, your face, your words, your hair, your walk, your way: all the last traces of baby have cast off. It’s heartbreaking and heartening, as always. I am continually astounded by your self-possession and confidence. You are a little girl who knows herself, and I believe that has a lot to do with your rock-solid daddy.
One morning before school last fall I was frustrated and hustling and screaming to try and get you out the door. You stopped, squared your little shoulders to me, straightened both arms and with clenched fists screamed at the top of your lungs:
“I! AM THE KIND OF PERSON! WHO! WHEN YOU SCREAM! AT ME! I! AM GOING! TO SCREAM BACK!”
You’re physical and brave and a good friend.
You’re both a leader and an includer.
You’re funny and only self-conscious now and then, and you have a deep mistrust of nail clippers and doctors.
You’re an excellent artist, but can’t stand when I draw better than you.
You want me by your side, but everything that goes wrong is my fault.
You’ve learned to read, but it’s not your favorite, and I joke you must not really be my child.
Your body is the perfect little spoon and this is the thing I believe I will miss most when it changes.
You challenge every—single—thing, and even the anticipation of this exhausts me, but I respect you for it (mostly).
I miss your smell palpably, and always, even when you are right next to me.
You are as stubborn as the most stubborn mule.
Sometimes I take you to my Saturday night home group meeting and you sit and watch a show on your iPad and eat cookies. Earlier this year you asked me why I don’t drink alcohol anymore, and I said it’s because I’m allergic and it doesn’t make me feel good. You asked why people talk about being ‘alcoholics’ so much in the meeting and I said its because it feels better to talk about things. I always want to offer more, but my friend Rebecca says to only answer the question that’s asked, and it seems like sage advice.
I’ve no idea how this particular conversation will change as you grow up, but I’m doing as best as I can with it today. People ask me if I worry about being so open because of you, and I don’t—or more accurately, I can’t—because I can't do that and stay sober at the same time. I hope you’ll understand but maybe you won’t sometimes, and that would be okay too. Not ashamed seems like the most important thing I can be for both of us.
I’d say this year has been my favorite, but I think they’ve all been my favorite. I feel the time slipping away fast as ever, but at least this year I’ve been awake, all 365 days.
A friend who’s thinking about whether she wants to start a family asked me recently if it’s really worth it, being a parent. Like, do you secretly wish sometimes that you weren’t?, she asked. Is it hard to give up the time, the energy, your person, your body? And I said yes, it’s hard—all of those things are very, very hard for me sometimes—but it’s never not been worth it. I said it’s the best part about me. “It” meaning “you.”
You are the best thing about me.
I love you to the moon and back, my bean. My beanpot. My favorite girl in the world.