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Dear Daughter, This Is What I See When I Look at You

Photograph by Twenty20

Dear Daughter,

I'm not sure how or why we got here so fast. It's true what they all told me: The days are long but the years are short. I always smiled and believed them, never once begrudging them. But, wow, how have these years been so swift?

I look at you now and realize that we are at that halfway mark. The middle point of childhood. The time you've been here in our family is now equal to the years we have left with you before you start college. The near-end of little girl things, on the cusp of teenager things. Technically a tween. My first baby.

When I look at you, I see all the things everyone told me I'd see during this in-between time.

I still see the newborn whose eyes were born wide open, unblinking and locked with mine in that hospital room long ago.

I still see the infant who couldn't stop cooing at her own reflection, laying on her back in that jungle gym mirror, plopped in the middle of our old apartment.

I still see the 2-year-old who wailed at the top of her lungs for wild, sequined "puh-puh" (purple) fancy shoes at Nordstrom until I finally gave in and bought them instead of those practical silver ones.

I still see the 3-year-old who ran up and down our hallway every afternoon in an Elsa dress, belting "Let It Go." I'd sing with her and then we'd giggle and "Shhh!" ourselves, so we didn't wake up the little sister who was napping.

You were my big girl. And now, you really are a big girl.

In my eyes, you're still that baby, that toddler, that preschooler who I'd drop off three mornings a week with a "Bye bye, mama, see you later!" from you.

You were my big girl. And, now, you really are a big girl.

You're a girl who knows exactly what she's doing, yet also secretly second-guesses herself.

You're a girl who takes the lead with her little sister, yet also often thinks that little sister's ideas seem more fun.

You're a girl who begs to try all the things (dance, music, arts, sports), yet also just wants to come home from school and unwind without any kind of agenda.

You jump into projects and expect a lot from yourself. And, if that drawing or worksheet doesn't entirely turn out the way you pictured in your head, you are too hard on yourself.

Little girl, you are me.

And you are also HER.

When you sit at the piano, and count the tempo out loud while your fingers plunk the notes, she's there—your Grandma, my mommy. When you're onstage, big-smiling through all those dance moves you've practiced in our kitchen, I think of her. When we brush your gorgeously thick hair and pull it halfway up to accentuate how abundant and long it is (you lucky girl!), I see her. She may not be here with us anymore, but she's here through you. Through you, my darling, her life lives on and lifts me up more than you will ever know.

Yes, my girl, I see so much. And I am beyond beholden that you are you, that you are mine, that I am yours.

Forever.

Love, Mommy

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