Happy birthday to you, my 13-year-old. My teenager.
Right now you are living it up in Dollywood with your cousins and Nana & Granddaddy, on day 3 of Cousin Camp 2019. You just rode the world’s fastest wooden roller coaster, screaming in unison with Stella. And I know this because you texted me from your phone, now that you FINALLY have a phone.
We’ve waded cautiously into these social/technology waters with you, and at the same time, you’re asking us for caution, too. Like with these letters, for example. When I began writing them, I promised myself I wouldn’t publish anything that would embarrass your future self. But now that you’re older, we don’t always agree about what qualifies as embarrassing. Even when I post a totally normal, benign snapshot of you on social media, you’ll lament, “But what if my future employer sees that photo one day? I’ll never get a job!”
So, future employer, if you’re reading this, let me tell you a few things about my girl. She is smart – so smart. She is creative, with a wonderful ear for music and a fantastic talent for drawing. She is a perfectionist, so you can count on her work being done right and on time. She’s a leader. She’s kind. You’d be crazy not to hire her, you should pay her as much as you possibly can, and she’ll still be worth a million times more to her mother.
There, all good, right?
Your reticence has certainly curbed my letter writing, but some milestones beg to be documented. And if you don’t want me to publish this letter on my blog, we’ll keep it private. I owe you that.
Right now, at age 13, your life revolves around your three passions: drawing, singing, and Broadway musicals. You wake up and draw in your sketchbook. You love to draw anime-style characters, first sketching in pencil, then adding ink, and finally color. Then you’ll shift to your iPad where you have more drawing tools for digital creations.
While you create, a white headphone cord snakes from your ears to your phone, where you’re streaming songs from your favorite Broadway musicals. Currently, you’re binging all the music from Dear Evan Hansen, Wicked and Hamilton.
And you are humming along. Or sometimes you’re singing. In the car or with friends, it’s definitely all about singing. You had two friends sleep over on your 13th birthday, and in advance you assigned everyone a different part in a Dear Evan Hansen song. They were both instructed to practice the song AND the dance.
Fortunately, these two friends were up for the challenge. These are the same two friends you plan to room with when you all move to New York City, as you explained to me yesterday.
“I think that would be fun,” I said. “I’ll come visit you.”
“Ok,” you answered, “but I’m not buying your plane ticket. You’ll have to buy that yourself.”
Your New York obsession began when we took a trip there last fall. We stayed in an apartment in Hamilton Heights, across from City College. Every morning we stopped at the coffee shop on the corner for a hot beverage, a bagel, and a macaron, before walking to the subway to start our adventures for the day.
You loved all of it, and I think the experience of staying in an apartment rather than a hotel fueled your imagination. You could envision living there. That the corner coffee shop was your corner coffee shop. Maybe that college across the street was your college.
As for what you might study in college, that’s certainly up for debate. For a long time you were set on the idea of marine biology, but now you’d like to study music. I’m sure your plan may change many times between now and college, but I’m so glad that when you look into your future, you see lots of possibilities.
As for the past … I always find it interesting to know what stands out in your mind and not just my own recollection. So I was delighted that your end-of-year paperwork from school included a worksheet that asked you to reflect on the past year.
When asked to list your top 4 accomplishments from the year, they were:
- Acceptance into the audition-only Take Note chorus ensemble
- Acceptance into District Honor Choir
- Progressing in your drawing skills
- Advancing to the next level in aerial silks
Here’s what you listed as some of your favorite things from the past year:
- Movie: Life Aquatic by Wes Anderson
- TV Show: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- Book: War of Magic
- Place: NYC
- Animal: Cat
- Gift You Received: Phone
- Holiday: Christmas
- Fun Memory: Halloween Party
In a timeline of significant events, you included:
- Comic book shop opened (where you sometimes now work)
- Joined Chorus
- Visited NYC
- Savannah Comic Con
Do you want to know one of my favorite memories of this year with you? I’ll tell you.
So as you know, I am a nature lover, and as such I want to raise you to notice and admire the natural world too. I’m always pointing out a sunset, a deer at the tree line, a spiderweb, or the sunlight on the river’s surface. All of these things feel like miracles to me, but I don’t always know if you feel the power of them, too.
Then one day, I waved goodbye as you climbed on the school bus at the end of our driveway in the grey light of early morning. About 10 minutes later, my cell phone chirped. I had a text message from you.
“It looks like a rainbow outside but it’s not.”
And you sent a picture, hastily snapped from the school bus window as you crossed the bridge over the river.
It’s not the kind of photo that will make the end-of-year calendar, but I treasured it. You saw the sunrise. You noticed how pretty it was. And you wanted to share it with me.
I hope no matter how old you get, or whether you live under my roof or in New York City, that you’ll find little miracles happening every day. And when you do, I hope you’ll sometimes think of me and how I love them too.
But not as much as I love you. Not even close.