Letter to Camille: Happy 11th birthday!

Right now I’m sitting at the sunny breakfast table at Nana and Granddaddy’s house, tuned to my phone and computer for distress calls from our website clients. We made this unplanned trip thanks to Hurricane Irma, so we could be somewhere calm and safe to provide website support to our emergency management clients.

It’s currently my turn to be on duty – yesterday your Daddy worked while you and I went shopping and to a trampoline park. Today, it was his turn for Daddy-Daughter fun, with a round of mini-golf and a funnel cake and an enormous box of Swedish fish.

Fortunately for us, it appears Savannah will avoid the worst of the weather – but of course that only means a misfortune somewhere else with each forecast shift. I just turned off the Weather Channel – I love staying in the loop, but you can only watch someone get blown around the street for a certain amount of time before you need a break from the sound of the wind, the rain, and the forecasters’ urgent warning that the worst is yet to come.

And I am late – quite late – with posting your 11th birthday letter. So what better reprieve from the hurricane than to think back on that month?

Your 11th birthday marked the first time we ever surprised you with a vacation, and you were the one who gave us the idea many months ago. You’re a Harry Potter fan, and in the stories, Harry Potter receives his invitation to attend Hogwarts on his 11th birthday. So you declared that for your 11th birthday, you also wanted an invitation to the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

We took your idea and built upon it. Daddy found someone online who makes custom replicas of Harry’s Hogwarts letter, and had one created and addressed to you. And I booked us a trip to Harry Potter World in Orlando. We were going to fulfill your request for a letter, and then whisk you off to Hogwarts that very same day. Keeping the secret was SO HARD!

Your birthday arrived, and I made the traditional birthday breakfast of biscuits and gravy. Then after we ate, Lee slipped outside and put a stuffed owl on the porch, facing the front door and holding your letter (which is delivered by owls in the book, of course). A ring of the doorbell brought you into the game.

You were thrilled to see your letter, read your Hogwarts’ school supply list and hold your ticket to the Hogwarts Express train leaving from Platform 9 and 3/4. Then we asked you to pack your bag, because it was time to go.

It took you a little while to understand that we were actually going to Universal Studios in Orlando to Harry Potter World, and that we weren’t just playing a game with you. But once you believed it, you were super excited.

In Orlando, we spent two full days in the Harry Potter theme parks. On the second day, you were selected to announce the opening of the park, which also meant you got to be the first one into the park. As soon as you finished the announcement, you took off running through the empty park, determined to be first in line for your favorite Harry Potter rides.

We were absolutely smitten with the parks. We drank Butterbeer, you bought a wand at Ollivander’s Wand Shop just like Harry Potter did, and you ducked underneath the heat and noise of the fire-breathing dragon atop Gringott’s Bank.

We ventured outside of Harry Potter World too, and you fell in love with the E.T. ride, which stole your parents’ hearts as well.

We had a magical trip – pun totally intended.

Back home, we had time for just a few more shenanigans…


More than just a new school year, this was a new school too, and a new chapter in your educational journey. When we tucked you in at night and woke you up the next morning for the first day of classes, you were overflowing with questions. “What if I don’t have enough time to change classes?” “Where are the bathrooms?” “Am I allowed to wear crazy socks? I’d better not wear them today, just in case.”

We were almost as nervous as you were. But thankfully, you’re adjusting to middle school very well. You love your teachers, you quickly made friends, you found the bathrooms and you have plenty of time to change classes (and plenty of plain white socks). I’m sure at some point, the typical middle school drama will kick in and things will get harder, but for now, 6th grade is off to a great start.

I’m very proud of the way you’ve handled this change, marched into the new school with your chin up, tackled your assignments and opened yourself up to new friendships. You’re a great kid, and I am so happy you’re mine. I love you so much.

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