Eight years ago today, I had no idea that I was about to die. As the contractions swept over my body and I gripped your daddy's hand, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I wanted you.
But it wasn't until you lay in my arms, bloodied and crying, small and perfect, that I understood what birth meant. Birth, in many ways, was death. Because of you, I have learned to die a million deaths - to put to rest so much of myself and to be reborn. Like Dorothy entering Oz, you turned my world from black-and-white to color.
I looked at your olive complexion, your button nose, your deep blue eyes, your rose petal lips, and your soft little fingers and toes - and something inside me soared.
You were and are everything I ever wanted in a daughter - and all of the things I didn't know too. If you could have given me a picture of the 8-year-old you are now, I would have cried for sheer joy.
Compassionate and serious, you approach the world with equal parts gentleness and enthusiasm. You listen closely, observe in detail, and are not quick-to-judge. Neither are you quick to speak. You watch and wait - a quality I strive to emulate.
An artist to be sure, you are rarely without a pencil, crayons, paints, or a sketchbook. In fact, your dad and I bought you a 24-pack of premier colored pencils for your birthday (the almost-$20 kind). I know that you will notice the difference, that you will put them in a special place for your most important portraits.
Although sometimes quiet among your peers, you are exuberant at home. It's no wonder that hiking comes naturally to you, always at the head of the trail. When we homeschool, you prefer to do it standing up or jumping off the couch. You can climb trees and scale walls with the best of them - and you're certainly not afraid of bugs and desert critters.
Your dad and I find new cards and letters on our bed almost nightly. Last night's was a gorgeous sketch of a woman reading a book with the caption, "I love that you love to read."
And, goodness, you're responsible. I know I can count on you to be respectful, helpful, mannerly, and charming no matter where we go. And yet you're also mysterious and always on-the-edge-of-your-seat for any new adventure.
For tonight's birthday dinner, you requested sushi and fruit salad. You're not really a pizza and hot dogs kind of girl. You like those too, of course, but you have a pretty adventurous palate.
Honestly, I don't wish I could keep you little. It's far too much fun watching you grow up. You and I share many interests: reading good stories (especially historical fiction), traveling to new places, and going to bookstores. But you also love to sew, to play in the mud, to go camping, to dance in the rain, and to do anything with friends.
You're not one to waver when it comes to your core beliefs. You are steadfast in love, constant in mercy, abundant in joy. Thank you for being such a grounded and delightful not-so-little girl. Thank you for being you.
I love you more than words could ever say.