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“You can make anything by writing.” ― C.S. Lewis

Posts for birthday

A Three-Year Letter to My Daughter

[previously in this series…]

Dearest Ariadne,

We sit on the front steps in the early evening. The sun is not yet set, but the blue of the sky is weakening; the light going all golden and long.

“Ari,” I say. Our toes are in fading chalk dust. You have dandelion seeds in your hair. “Are you my baby?”

You are wearing a pair of Troll panties, and nothing else – as you usually are, when we’re at home. I’m lucky to have the underwear on you at all.

“No!” you exclaim emphatically – that grin with the gap between your two front teeth that melts everybody, “I big girl!”

It is a familiar correction, these days. You know, you understand: you’re not a baby like you once were. Maybe it hurts my heart a little, to hear that even you know you’re not a baby. Mostly it makes me smile, makes me laugh on the occasions I’m not even calling you a baby, I’m calling you baby like honey, sweetheart, angel.

Can you pick up that cup, please, baby? I’ll ask, and your return is immediate, no, I big girl!

And here on our front porch, covered with chalk outlines of your little body, blobs for your two hair buns, belly-buttons and squiggly smiled added as the only details, amid our flowers that you “help” me water – you make an allowance to your answer.

“I no big girl. I little big girl.”

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That answer, I like, unreservedly. That’s exactly what you are – grown, no longer a baby. Not just talking but holding conversations, asking questions and making inferences, remembering previous answers and building on them. Not just conversing but singing, do you know the muffin man, and Old McDonald had a farm, and most touchingly, the chorus of Work Song, your favorite lullaby, when my time come around. Not just singing but reciting little rhymes, there were four in the bed and the little one said roll over, and no more monkeys jumping on the bed! Using your imagination, creating little plays for your Baby Elmo and your kitty cats and your Legos.

And yet you are little – you need help up and down steps sometimes, you need reminders to potty and we don’t always make it. You sometimes have fits just because you can’t find the words to tell us what you want fast enough, and we aren’t telepathic enough to understand you want to use two forks and one of them should be green.

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On Turning Thirty.

ABOUT ME, Birthday - Emily - March 30, 2017

The thing about turning thirty is – we’re supposed to be scared of it.

Remember that Friends episode? The One Where They All Turn 30? Actual tears at the prospect of hitting that third decade – that was my idea of what turning 30 meant in our society, all the years I was growing up. We were supposed to dread turning 30, it was supposed to be this sort of Farewell to Youth tragedy.

And I sure don’t feel that. Not a bit.

My twenties were hard. For most of us: our twenties were hard – even if some of us don’t want to admit it. Your twenties are about learning how to be adult. We worked so hard, in our teenage years, to become an adult, and hitting 20, 21 – we thought we made it. Then we started to realize: holy shit, being an adult is teeeeerrible. And then – we spend the whole rest of our twenties having some sort of nervous breakdown, as we adjust to adulting, over and over again.

OK, maybe that’s a bit harsh — but when we were younger, our twenties were painted as this magical time when we would be youthful and full of energy. Our twenties would be the time we had it all, when that dream life everyone expects would be so easily achievable. Our lives were going to be so adventurous and fun, and finally, we would have that freedom we’d craved all the years before. We were all going to find our perfect job, right? Straight out of college – or at least a job in our field, with that potential to move upward. We were all gonna find the love of our lives, right? Get married, right? Maybe eventually have a baby, yes?  We were going to have that cute little starter house, and a dog that curled up by the fireplace. Or else, we were going to travel the world, experience everything, see everything, taste and smell and hear everything. We would go out and have big times with our friends on the weekends, throw cool parties, go to shows, work on our cars, network and socialize, enjoy this freedom and this freshness before we all inevitably passed into Old Age by the time we hit thirty.

You know what’s left out of that picture? Learning how to do your taxes, or how insurance actually works. Student loans – those were left out of that twenties ideal, BIG time. I think everyone I know had their twenties monopolized by student loans, and how to pay them off, and how to live the life they wanted while working a job they hated in order to get money to pay off those damn student loans from that degree they worked so hard for that was supposed to get them that dream job. Car payments – those were left out of that ideal twenties experience too, and medical bills, and negotiating a raise and what the hell a 401k is and aren’t we seriously too young to be worrying about life insurance??

You know what else was left out? Emotional trauma. Losing loved ones to fatal diseases. Learning to recognize abusive relationships, romantic or platonic, and figuring out how to get out of them, how to recover. Break-ups in general – break-ups with boyfriends or girlfriends, break-up with friends who just weren’t good for you. Realizing that family isn’t perfect just because it’s family. Learning which problematic relationships you can work with, and which are just making your life too hard, too painful. Loss – loss was left out of the twenties ideal. All kinds of loss; loss of innocence, loss of that very ideal we were taught to expect. Loss of love, loss of trust, loss of people and pets and all those tiny little hurts that build up to one big ball of pain that we carry around every day for the rest of our lives.

So – our twenties ain’t easy. Our twenties, to me, are all about learning lessons. Sure, we never stop learning lessons, our entire lives – and I think that’s the biggest lesson of our twenties. This is adulthood, kids, and it’s not going to change. Everything that smashed into us at 23, 26, 28 – none of that’s going anywhere. There’s no magical off-switch that makes the hurts and the challenges and the exhaustion go away, stop coming – there’s no magic Harry Potter spell we get to stay to make wave after wave of life stop crashing over us.

That’s where I stand, at the cusp of my thirties. Understanding that life isn’t easy, for anyone, and that’s normal. If anything, I stand grateful at the cusp of my thirties, because my twenties taught me that, and my twenties taught me resilience, versatility, hope even in the face of despair. My twenties gave me the tools to deal with my thirties, and my forties, and however many decades come after.

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A Birthday Love Letter.

Birthday, Life, My Little Family, Our Marriage, Shaun - Emily - March 1, 2016

Dear Shaun,

Happy birthday, my sweetheart.

You turn 30 today, and we always joke thirty is such a big, grown-up age – and yet, to me, you look almost the exact same as you did when we met when you were 23 and I was 22. Your hair is longer, your beard is fuller. Maybe every so often, we spot one little grey hair in your beard – but aside from that, you are still just the same.

And you’re taking this birthday in stride, calm and cheerful like you are about almost every single thing. We’ve talked for a few years now how our thirties will kind of seem like a relief. The twenties are such a wild period of figuring yourself out, figuring out how being an adult works, figuring out that no matter how much being an adult can suck, you can’t stop the ride and get off the train. I don’t think either of us expect our thirties to be a breeze and a piece of cake ALL of the time – but we’ve started to figure things out. We’ve had some practice, in our twenties, and we’ve learned how to (generally) make good decisions, stand our ground when we need to. Stand by each other, always.

But I wanted this to be a big birthday for you, I wanted to make a fuss. I know you – you would hardly ever ask for anything, ever. You are so content with simple pleasures and small favors, you don’t crave drama or attention, you are so humble and content. Those are just some of the many things I love about you – how down to earth you are, how happy you are with just your few key pleasures.

But you are a man who deserves to know how wonderful you are. You deserve to know what a great man you have become, and will continue to become. Not just on your birthday, but every day. I’ve always said, I can’t wait to see the man you will become, and that’s so true. In the almost seven years we’ve been together, I knew you first as a funny, charming, thoughtful boy, and have watched you, over time, grow into an even funnier, even more thoughtful, even more generous and loving man.

You are steady and strong and loving and gentle. You are a good boss to your employees, you take care of them, you cheer them up and try and teach them to be better. You’re such a good friend, you bring so much laughter to everyone, you care so deeply about our friends’ ups and downs. You are so supportive of them, even if your support is just taking care of me taking care of them.

You’re such a good husband. Such. You have always been, and yet, in the last few months, since we found out I was pregnant, you have stepped it up even more. I never have to ask twice for anything, you help me around the house when I’m too exhausted to do as much as I usually do. You’ve never once complained about being asked to get me more water or let me hog the footstool or get me my prenatal vitamin when I’ve fallen into bed without taking it first.

And Lord, besides all the taking care of me – you make me laugh so much. So much, all the time. If left alone together, on a car ride or sitting outside, wherever we are – we are laughing, and that makes me so happy. With no one else can I be as goofy and carefree as I am with you. I love it when I make you laugh until you lose it, when I genuinely tickle you and you have to stop and cover your face with your hand until you recover. I love how happy we are, when left to our own devices. We are so joyful, and we are so joyful at being together.

And you are going to be such a good father. I have no doubt on that. The way you would cup my belly at night, early on, thinking good thoughts for the baby, and then whisper I love you to it – that gave me so much confidence and hope. I was so scared and unsure about what was happening inside of me, at first – and you reassured me at every turn. You have been so confident and so reassuring, and best of all – so loving, so excited. The way your eyes light up sometimes, the way you know talk to the baby for a good few minutes now, telling her (WE KNOW IT’S A HER NOW!) to grow big and strong, but not too big, don’t hurt Mama, just be healthy – I love you so much. You care about her so much already, before we even knew she was a she, before we’ve really even met her. You are so gentle and kind and supportive and patient with me – I know you will be a thousand times more with our child.

It’s your birthday, and you’re thirty, and you are just doing absolutely fabulous. You really are. You have grown so much in your twenties, and I know you will continue to grow and change for the better. I am so honored to be your wife, so honored that you picked me to focus your love and attention on it. I never take that for granted – every day, I am so aware of how much you love me, and how much I love you – and God, it sounds like such a cliché, but our love grows each and every day. Noticeably, palpably. It is one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given, in my entire life, and I’m so grateful I get so spend every other birthday with you, that we get to celebrate for years and years to come.

Love,
Emmy

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