I know how excited you are. It is written all over your face. On the cusp of turning 10, this July 23rd is going to be a monumental birthday for you. It is going to be for me as well. Every step (literally and figuratively) of your life I have recorded in my mind. The thought of my baby girl turning 10 is hard to believe when I can remember fumbling for a bottle for you at 2am.
There was no greater feeling in my life (with your sister too) than when I held you in my arms for the first time. At 1, you fit perfectly there. Everything about you was perfect even though I wasn’t (figuring out a hungry cry vs. a wet cry took me a little longer than most). I can’t begin to tell you what it’s like knowing I had a hand in the beautifully perfect life spitting up on my shoulder.
You began walking and talking at two. Each one, you did with more regularity, confidence, and volume. It was the closest I had come close to panicking as I rushed from work to the Emergency Room. You had fallen off your bed and hurt your neck. I sat in the X-Ray room, holding your hand, promising everything would be ok as doctors examined your neck and I got massive doses of radiation (I would do it again without a moment’s hesitation).
At 3 you became a big sister (and I became a professional arbitrator for your sister and you). You learned about death when I told you Pop Pop went to heaven. You didn’t quite understand other than you knew you were not going to be able to see him again. Its ok you didn’t understand why he had to go to heaven. I didn’t understand it either. And its ok you didn’t cry. I did for both of us.
Starting Kindergarten at 5 was as close as I’ve seen your mom get to hyperventilating. It was also the first time I remember wondering what happened to the tiny baby I used to hold as the bus took you to your first day.
You tried at 6 to not only a big sister but a second mom to Emma after you came to grips with the fact she wasn’t going anywhere so you made the best of being a big sister. And when you went on the bus to go to 1st grade, I waved again and tried to calm your mom down.
You began to conquer your fears at 7. You mastered a bike without training wheels, you went on roller coasters, and did things I had never seen (or thought) you would do. It was also when I saw the side of you (caring, compassionate, and protective) that makes you such a good big sister.
Your first Holy Communion came at 8. Standing in front of me was an angel dressed in white and looking far too old to be my little girl. It has been one of the few times I considered the possibility of there being a heaven. How else could I explain how blessed I was to have you in my life?
It was just this year, at 9, the little girl who wanted so badly to be a big girl, asked her Daddy to carry her up to bed. It was the year you finished elementary school and your mom started hyperventilating at the end of the school year instead of just at the beginning. It was the year you could think only of being 10.
I know you’re focused on your birthday now but these past nine years are moments that will forever be apart of my memories. As will the days of your life that are yet to come. I remember because I’m your dad and part of me will always want you to be the baby who fit so perfectly in to my arms. But a bigger part of me knows that these memories are to be remembered fondly but not at the expense of what and who is right in front of me.
So while it may seem as though I cling to the past nine years of your life Hannah, know that this year and this birthday is no different than how I felt for your birthday at 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, or 9. I will always remember but I will also always share your anticipation and excitement, this time, at the thought of your life at 10.