Dearest Helen Cooper Hood Eyre,
Nine years ago today I was huffing it off to the hospital to prepare to launch you into the world. Honestly, the truth, Pumpkin Pie, is that I wasn't too sure about having another kid at the ripe old age of 39. It came as a bit of a surprise when Daddy and I found out you had been planted in my belly, which actually makes a lot of sense now because pretty much everything about you, every day of our lives together, is a surprise.
Like this: the other day I was putting a bunch of books in your cabinet and I came across a pile of cards you made for Christmas. You made them so far in advance that I think you must have forgotten about them when the holiday rolled around. On the top of the stack was a card you made for me and it said, simply, "Merry Christmas. You have taught me how to be powerful. Step by step."
Did you hire a consultant to work with you when you wrote your holiday greetings? Because it would pretty much be impossible to compose a more meaningful sentence for a mother from a daughter. Let alone an eight-year-old daughter.
How did you know? How did you know that that's been the motivation behind most of the choices I've made since you were born?
My deepest desire has always been to show you, by doing, that the world is your playground and anything is possible. And that you should love and take very good care of the people who fall into your orbit and that because we were all born into a life with way more than we need, it's our job to help other people. That power has nothing to do with being in charge of or better than or right and everything to do with being humble and being afraid; that there is power in having the courage to try new things even though lots of them won't work out. This is what I am seeking to teach you during these years when your eyes are wide and your heart is open.
When I read your card I felt exactly the way I felt when I read what Sam wrote to me a few weeks ago: "I cannot believe that this parenting thing is actually kind of working out OK."
Thank you, sweet Helen of Life. Thank you for bringing joy into every corner of our days. Thank you for coming, as you did, into a chilly January sunrise and changing us all forever. I love our morning dance parties and our bedtime ritual, "Talk Me Day." I loved how you tried so hard to speak Swedish when we were in Stockholm last summer while the rest of us were afraid of sounding like fools. I love how you make people who are scared or lonely or outcast feel special. When your new cousin, baby Lila , arrived two weeks ago, you told her tough, professional-hockey-playing Dad, "She is a gift to the world." How do you know how to do these things? Who are you, anyway?
I can't even begin to talk about the fashion thing; I don't understand it at all. I'm still struggling to make sense of the clothing situation for us women. I appreciate that you wear Carhartts from time to time to humor me, but you don't have to. You're not me; you're you. In the nine years you've been here you have made the world more fun, more colorful and more humane. I love watching you move through time and space; you are sunshine and quirkiness and attitude and determination in motion. You make me laugh. A lot. More than anything, though, I love just being near you, quiet, together.
Thank you for choosing our family, Helen, Helena, Coco. I may be showing you what power looks like, but you are showing me zest and curiosity and courage. You make me feel brave. I am your Smothered Burrito; you are my Taco Belle. Let's show the whole world how awesome 9 and 49 can be.