You are eighteen today, and the world has proclaimed you an adult. Yet, no matter your age, you will always be my child.
I don’t know how to write this to you. I don’t know how to tell you how much your life means to me without crying or wishing I could have done more or held you closer when you were young.
I don’t know when you’ll come home tonight (having asked you already to be quiet, to go through the back door).
I don’t know what to write, My Mythili, because I’ve already written too much.
I want you to be that little girl who played with pasta pieces, dolls, two toothpicks, a set of coasters… whatever you could lay your hands on… and make me an imaginary story filled with wild words and wild worlds.
I want you to be twelve, trekking across three peaks in as many days, backpack strapped to your back, aspens in their full autumnal glory, shining as bright as the sight of five moose in a weekend.
I want you to be two, trailing your older sister’s words and movements, adding to every sentence that you copy with perfect eloquence, “Yada yada yada… TOO!”
I want you to be eighteen. To have made it to your eighteenth birthday.
My little girl who hated this dress so much that she cried the whole walk down, the two-mile walk to the port in 40-degree, palm-tree-laden Spain, and yet still had enough beauty in her soul, her face, her whole being, to give us this photo.
This isn’t even the real photo. It’s the shit-copy, Walgreens-duplicate, blanket-for-Nanny photo.
Yet, look how beautiful you are, my eight-year-old, eighteen-year-old, crone of a girl.
I don’t have the words or the pictures to post this moment in your life. This post-pandemic, post-death-of-a-friend, post-traumatic moment.
Is it after, or before, or right now?
I just want you to know that a million words wouldn’t be enough. That I have cried through every moment of writing this. Not because you have done anything wrong. Not because you have the audacity to become an adult. Not because I don’t love you to the tops of those peaks and back.
Because I do. My Mythili. And I don’t have the words or the pic or the ability to capture… to …
Happy, happy birthday.