Today is your birthday and you are 23 years old. It is beautifully cold and sunny today, with a thin blanket of snow on the ground, just enough to cover the grass. There are icicles hanging from roof of the house and it is a whopping 5 degrees as I write this, all so different from the day you were born, save the sunlight. You took a while to decide to come into the world, teasing us the day before and causing Daddy to drive us excitedly to Walter Reed Army Hospital at 10:30 p.m. on the 18th and then, to prove you really did have a sense of humor, finally arriving at 3:40 p.m. the next day, today, during the Washington Redskins football game, the only game they won that season and one that Daddy wasn't "allowed" to watch.
I'm not quite sure he's ever gotten over that.
You surprised us all, PaPaw and MeMaw especially, by being a girl, the first girl to be born in the Austin family in nearly 80 years. That is quite an honor. The only time you cried in the delivery room was when they pricked your heel to get some blood and that nearly broke my heart. Even today when you get hurt or when your joints hurt, a lump swells up in my throat and I have a hard time swallowing. I don't know if that will ever go away.
That first day, I was in shock, I think, in shock that I was a momma, something that I never planned on when I was growing up. I spent the rest of that day trying on that title and when Nana called later that evening and greeted me with, "Hey Momma!" I blurted out, "But that's you, not me!" Daddy took to his new role just like he always does. He fell head over heels in love with you the first minute he saw you. I was in so much awe when they placed you on my chest and saw your big blue eyes studying me and asking me to "explain myself" that I wasn't sure what I was feeling. It was the next night, after all the other new mothers that I was sharing a room with had gone home with their new babies, it was then that I fell completely and totally in love with you. I had gotten up in the night to go down to the nursery to see if I could bring you back to my room because I missed you so much already. When we got back to where I was recovering, I took you out of your little bassinet where Bill the Bear was snuggled, a gift from Daddy's Army buddies, and sat with you in the room's big rocking chair and just stared at you. You felt so perfect and so right in my arms, a something that I never knew was missing in my life. The feelings that overwhelmed me at that moment still overwhelm me today. When I married Daddy, I felt complete, like I had found my other half. When you were born, it was though another whole me had been completed. You made me realize that there is a whole different kind of love, a love I never knew existed and one that only you and I could share. I remember getting up after awhile and carrying you over to the windows to show you the rain that was coming down that night. I explained that rain was the water that God used to water the grass, the flowers and the trees. You looked out the window and I knew you saw that rain and that you understood what I was saying. It was then, after we had settled back into our rocking chair, that I began to tell you all about me and Daddy, about Neko the Cat, about Nana and Poppy, MeMaw and PaPaw, about all the love that was being sent your way. I told you stories about growing up, I told you about how excited Daddy and I were to be your parents, about future trips to the park, about the grocery store . . . I whispered to you so much nonsense I'm sure, but you drank it in, never commenting or whimpering. You just watched me and listened to me till you finally fell asleep, your little blond surfer wave of hair nestled against my elbow.
So many memories of the two of us are flooding back to me right now: our trips to Super Crown Books , where I would let you pick out one book, then I'd pick out a book for you (because you had to have two books, one for each hand); our walks to the duck ponds to feed the ducks and geese the left over bread that I saved every week; your very first visit to Cox Farms and how you were so excited on the way home that you fell sound asleep mid-sentence; your morning wake ups when you were still in your crib and how much fun I had listening to you over the baby monitor. I always knew when that last pacifier had been thrown out of the crib (after you'd flung the first 15 overboard) because there'd be a brief pause, then an "uhhhhhh-ohhhhhhh!" That was my cue to come in and pick you up, the two of us giggling at all the pacies on the floor, then we'd go have breakfast and you'd tell me all about the dreams you had the night before and what it was you wanted to do that day.
We giggle a lot, don't we?
I used to tell you that you were my little Christmas present and I got to unwrap you every day to see what was inside. It's still that way today, but I sit back now and watch you unwrap yourself. You've grown into an amazing person. You care so much that it hurts you sometimes, but you never give up. You are fiercely loyal. You are helpful without being asked. You are the world's best listener and counselor. You can get so silly sometimes and that is wonderful to see. You are a diehard Washington Redskins fan, never giving up on your hometown team. You are an amazing, amazing big sister. I sit back and am in awe of you, not the slang kind of "awe", but the true meaning of the word: an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration and respect. You were the one that taught me how to be a momma. We have been through so much together and I have learned so much from you. You are really and truly my very best friend.
Thank you for being my Merry Meg, my Moparuski, my Meggers, my Little Big Girl, my Mop, my Babydoll (a name that now ONLY belongs to you. I won't ever make that mistake again after calling Joe "babydoll" the first time I saw him!), my Meg-A-Boo, my Big Blue Eyed Girl.
Most of all, thank you for being you.
Happy birthday, Baby Girl. I love you!