Dear Brianna,

Today is my 31st birthday. In years past, even last year, birthdays haven’t really bothered me, but this year, as I watch you grow and send you off to your mima and poppy’s for the weekend, it hit me how much I want to see you grow. Maybe it’s selfish, but I want you to grow up knowing just how much you are loved by mommy and daddy. I want to be the one to read you books (I Love You Stinky Face being the current favorite) during the day, help you learn to pee-pee on the potty (even if I do get frustrated and think it’s a lot of work), teach you about boys and make-up and shoes (though I think you’ve got that part down already) and clothes.

Your daddy and I are going out of town this weekend and suddenly I wonder—what if something happens to us both. Will the people left behind remember to tell you how much we loved you? Will they teach you all the things we’d have taught you and raise you to be a woman who knows her own self-worth? And most of all, will you know how very blessed we feel to have you in our lives, giving smiles and Eskimo kisses and tiny “I love you’s” in your little girl voice?

Maybe I’m thinking harder about this today, not just because it’s my birthday, but it’s a birthday that feels like it’s bringing me suddenly closer to the age my mom was when she died without warning. 38. Birthdays have never bothered me, I still feel young, I think 31 is young. I think 38 is young. But it occurs to me that my mom was young and she didn’t get to stick around for me. I wonder if her last thoughts were about leaving her children behind, to go on without her? I think there’s something about being a mom that makes us not only more vividly aware of our mortality, but want to beat it that much more desperately so we can always be there for our babies. I want to be there for you, to see all of those firsts, and milestones, and to eventually hold your daughter and watch you experience the love I now feel.

Some day, I hope when you’re picking up your daughter from her crib and she says “Mommy!” like you’re the most loved person ever, offers up Eskimo kisses and gifts you with the first smile of the day, that you’ll realize just how much I love you and how that was really all the birthday gift I needed this morning. I love you, baby girl, thanks for my birthday kisses.


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