My dearest A –
Most lovely A,
You are eleven today.
E L E V E N
You know that eleven is my favorite number. And Daddy’s. Why? For my part I can’t say. I honestly have no idea. Maybe it’s the look of it – the symmetry. The ones stand so straight and tall. Neither one is ever alone. The ones echo each other. They are ever parallel – together but apart. Each one is essential to the other in order to create the whole – the Eleven.
It’s also the first time you will have to jump off both hands to find the amount. It’s mysterious that way – your eye doesn’t recognize and quickly name eleven the way you do with ten or twelve. It’s subtle. You find eleven in the in-between places. Like in city grates that let the water pass from here to the dark there. In pairs of legs that carry you – the shape gets broken along the way but ultimately it holds you erect and sure. Eleven is a pair of freeways, seen from great heights, running side by side but finally leading to very different destinations.
I am excited for you, A, my lovey dove. Actually, honestly, I am excited for me. I am excited for me and the other people that adore you. We get to watch you navigate new territory. We who have taken care of you and made the majority of decisions for you will let out the string a little more and watch you fly higher and higher into places we cannot reach. To places where we are not. Turning eleven, going off to middle school, you knowing things I don’t understand – this is where you are now. It’s one of those times where you try out the wings you’ve been growing into for so long. This year you will make significant choices in what you study, in the music you will play and write and about the people you will befriend and love. You will read some amazing things and write even more amazing things. You have more say-so about these things (and everything!) than you’ve ever had before. Thrilling! Also – maybe – heavy?
As you well know, this new autonomy comes at a cost. With freedom comes responsibility, right? You have the continuing responsibility to be your best and to live by the integrity that defines your solid character. New and difficult temptations and other strong feelings are going to tug at you and force you to look at yourself and what you value. Dark thoughts, anxious thoughts, doubts. I only know that you will experience these things because we all do. It’s part of the price of being a whole human being.
These will not be easy times.
The fact that you are so good with your resources – your money, your time and your energy – and that you have cultivated such excellent management and coping skills (“worse for first, best for last”) makes me know that you will continue to make good choices for yourself. Please have faith that your wonderful sense of humor and tremendous creativity will carry you through those rough patches.
I have always known and accepted that you do not belong to me. I am just a lucky, lucky soul who gets to see and be with you day after day – for a little while anyway. I have loved every single second. Knowing that I will no longer be the person you bring all your heartache and celebrations to feels devastating but right. It’s the natural order of things. It’s the cost of being a mother – of having the privilege of knowing and loving a growing child.
That said, please don’t ever forget that Daddy and I are on the other end of that string. We will always be here and love you no matter what. We are connected forever. I love you A. I love you and I could not be more proud of you.
Happy, happy eleventh birthday.