Today call me complete; the best of all the words that filled me at your birth. A nurse slipped you into my arms (four pounds, fourteen ounces of sticky skin and soft bone; wrinkled legs stiffening in protest) and I looked down at your tiny face and knew you for my own.
These hands, shaking, cradled the first great-granddaughter; the first niece; the first sister of a generation. My last child (I wish I had known); my only baby girl.
You were so little and people asked.
“Was she a preemie?” No. “Did you smoke?” Of course not. “But she’s so small!”
There were reasons for your size, a story for another day; perhaps a time that’s not this full, happy, celebratory.
You grew and people asked.
“Is he a boy?” No. “You named your son Karly?” Of course not. “Look at those ears!”
There’s a story there, too; but I choose to recall you as you were: perfect in our eyes.
As you are: better than we deserve.
Ever our even girl.
“I love you Mama,” you said, your eyes darting to your father. “I love you, too Dada. Maybe just a dot more.”
You looked between us. “Actually, (ac-ti-dee) I love you both the same.”
A hug for me. A hug for him. A hug for your big brother.
For twelve years, you’ve wanted everything to be fair; to never hurt a feeling, ruffle a feather.
You smooth each rough edge encountered, offering compromise, a hand, placation.
But here’s a secret I’ll share today; a wish for you besides such constant equanimity:
I hope, instead, that you love freely, without measure or fear; I want you to be extravagant with your emotions and seek at times the ends of the spectrum instead of the careful balance of middle ground.
Don’t be afraid of ruffled feathers, of being out of joint or sorts. You should love some more than others; you will give (inevitably) less than required, but also sometimes more.
We can always only try our hardest and hope our intentions speak loudly; that our actions (overall) speak louder still.
I wish for you a path that brings you joy; goals with both purpose and strength. I hope you find true friends whom you might safely trust and a partner in this life to hold your hand.
I’d choose for you, if I could, an open mind that keeps learning and a spirit that willingly shares what you know; after all, you’ve been sharing since your brother first climbed onto my lap to be held alongside you in our hospital bed.
People clucked and comforted. “Don’t worry. When you have another baby, your heart stretches.”
You’ll see. But I did not believe them and I don’t believe them still.
I’m quite certain I grew a new heart in the wake of your arrival. The one I’d been using (testing, teasing, building, breaking) couldn’t have fit all that flooded me the minute I suspected you were coming (in the middle of a Sunday brunch with Jack and Daddy; I was eating eggs and I just knew).
Cows have four stomachs. I have two hearts.
(I know they don’t really; and neither do I. But still.)
My Girl of the Bright Side, you were born second; you wore navy blue sweatshirts and dinosaur pajamas; you slept in hand-me-down beds and chewed on plastic blocks someone else had gummed before you.
Your baby book is half full and most of your pictures contain another grinning face (covered also in cake or standing before the giraffe’s habitat or washing the car with one bucket of soapy water and two rags).
But there is one thing you’ve never had to share: you claimed the whole of the heart I grew for you.
For whatever’s longer than forever. Plus a dot more.
Happy birthday, Kaker-Baker-Candlestick-Maker; my twelve-year-old with long(ish) legs and wide(ish) shoulders and the quickest smile. You make me proud and astonished and terrified and awestruck and complete.
And I’ll always love you more than all the words.