A couple of weeks ago I was trying to explain homework to Drew for the 17th time and he and I were both getting frustrated. I stood up and walked away while counting slowly to 10, and he spun elaborate schemes in his head about the possibilities of channeling Darth Vader to destroy long division. Then you came in. I was still pacing, “7…8…9…” and not feeling any calmer when you sat down next to him and started to explain his assignment kindly and patiently. He gave you his full attention and finished his homework in minutes.
At the beginning of the school year you decided to run track for the 6th grade team. With no prior experience and no other friends joining you in this quest, you showed up every day after school for six weeks of practice. Your windblown ponytail and pink cheeks revealed the hard work you were putting in, and I was so proud of you for trying something new. Aside from that one week where they got your name mixed up with that big German girl on your team and had your 55 lb. frame competing in the shot put, I loved watching your track meets. I will never forget the look on your face as you grabbed the baton in the final leg of the 800 Meter Dash and tried to catch up to the opponent ahead of you. The soft ripples around the dimples in your smile condensed into fierce lines that displayed a look of intensity that I had never seen in you before. I entertained the idea of not having to worry about you so much, because that kind of determination will get you a lot further than an 800 meter dash.
Yesterday I watched you walk to the front of the church congregation as the Bishop presented you with a certificate of advancement from Primary into the Youth Program. You recited one of the 13 articles of faith into a microphone in front of hundreds of people without batting an eyelash, and minutes later gave a talk in front of the Primary children without any notes. And it hit me - we sure have come a long way from putting bows in your hair with KY Jelly.
I’ve been watching you learn and grow in various capacities for twelve years now. You learned how to walk on our hardwood floors when you were 1, how to play tea party with Dad at Christmas when you were 3, and how to kick all our butts on Mario Kart’s DK Mountain when you were 10. And while I still believe you get your creativity from me and your apathy toward multiple sugary treats from your dad, in the end you are just you. And being a part of that is the real gift.
Happy Birthday baby girl.