Happy Birthday, Charlotte!

I must have blinked. Yesterday, Charlotte was a tiny little thing, scrawny, tube-fed and recovering from heart surgery.  Today, she’s almost up to my shoulder, weighs 55 lbs., giggles constantly, and has no problem eating her fill. Seven. Today she is seven.

May 9, 2006: Charlotte didn’t eat this cupcake. We helped her blow the candle out and then went out to dinner, to celebrate that all of us had survived the first year in a life. Look at those ankles.  (photo credit: Karley Beery)
May 9, 2012: We had to stop her from diving into this cupcake to get the picture!
“Happy birthday to me!”

We started learning about seven a few months ago. Seven is the age of “it’s not fair,” a growing deep interest and concern with the world around her, and complex emotions.  I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a roller coaster ride. One minute she’s a little girl, snugly and silly. Another minute, she’s nursing hurt feelings or fussing about doing her homework. Then, in a flash, she’s off practicing the piano, building homes for her Calico Critters, writing letters to the Garden Fairies, or scooting around the house. Just as easily she’s in her room reading or writing. It is endlessly delightful to watch her, though sometimes frustrating to follow her emotions.

Now to the annual birthday letter,

My darling Charlotte,

You started six ready to be the be the “sixiest,” and you have been. In the past year you’ve grown so much (and I’m not just talking about the fact that you are SO tall), that I don’t know where to begin. And, once again, you taught me so much.

Finishing kindergarten you were more than prepared for first grade–reading, making friends, open and curious. Camp was an hour away by bus; you came home sweaty, exhausted, and cheerful though at the end of the summer you did tell me that you’d had too many weeks of camp. Duly noted.

Mid-summer we packed up and moved, again. This time it was only six miles. It may as well have been across the country again–now we have a backyard, neighbors your age, and we’re only a 5 minute drive from school. You never complained, just set about coloring the moving boxes and making new friends. You proudly live in the “yellow house at the top of the hill,” and never (almost never) complain that we haven’t hung your curtains.

Your amazing first grade teachers–Isabelle M., Aileen, and Hannah–quickly recognized your strengths and have worked hard to make sure that you stay challenged. Leigh and Sophie deserve special kudos for your reading groups with Aurelia and Sarah. Mohamed inspires the artist in you, teaching you about perspective and volume. Ms. Hammond, Ms. Rosellini, and Karine have kept you busy in, respectively, music, library, and theater. To hear you describe Fantasia last week made my heart leap with joy. And the games you play in theater class have made you a better listener, most of the time.

They’ve had a bit of a struggle keeping you focused, but we’re working on that! The excitement you share with your recap of the end of each day continues to delight me. Sure, you tell me first the number of times you went to the playground, but then you describe in detail the art project, theater class, or science project you’re working on.  You love random spelling tests and I’m continually astonished by the addition you can do in your head. I’m not sure you realize how much you’re learning, but I am daily in awe of your knowledge of the world, language, and people.

You’ve finally put your head under water and are swimming on your own. I think this will be the year you learn to ride a two-wheeler and tie your shoes.

So, we’re gearing up to turn your world upside down, again, moving back to Chicago. You’re much more aware this time of what this move means and how it will change your daily life. Your seven-year old sensitivity shines as you tell me that you’re happy and sad at the same time to go to Chicago. I’m sad too that we’ll tear you from this wonderful school and the friends who have grown to love and support you.  And, I am glad that this transition will be eased by the familiarity of our destination. You now know that you have friends who are waiting for you excitedly at the other end of the journey.

If there has been a “regular” year in your life–six has been it. No hospital trips (we’ve never seen the inside of Boston Children’s!), and aside from moving to Arlington, no unusual events. You wear your scar proudly, but remember less and less of your feeding tube.  You tell me often that you have a special heart. You do, my dear, and I’m not just talking about the repaired CHD. You are open, kind, empathetic, and loving. You meet each new person with an eagerness to make a new friend; each new challenge with the confidence of success. These traits will serve you well.

My stupendously six girl is now stylishly seven. I’m confident that you will remain strong, sassy, sparkly, and, hopefully, silly. And I know that you will teach me much as we weather another move together. I hope your sensitivity and kindness will continue to keep your heart open to the possibilities that change will bring us. Keep dancing like no one is watching, and keep loving with abandon. May you continue to write letters to fairies, dream of flying on paper wings, change your mind daily about what you’ll be when you grow up, and tell me your secrets each night at bedtime.

Daddy and I love you so very much.

May you grow from strength to strength.

4 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Charlotte!

  1. Charlotte!Bonne anniversaire! You are growing like crazy. So different from how little you were when I carried u around after your heart was fixed. I am so happy to see you are doing well. you give this nurses week special meaning to me. I am so pleasured to know I got to be a small part of why you have grown to be such an amazing girl. Chicago, Boston, NewYork, Los Angeles, Paris, etc you always have a fan in me kiddo! Cheers!

  2. My dearest Charlotte, what a wonderful year you have had! your mother's post is so eloquent that I feel that I was there for every event. I hope that you eighth year is as wonderful as your last. I love you very much and can't wait to see you to celebrate with you.Love, Bamma

  3. Pingback: Happy Birthday Charlotte! Or, who said you could turn eight? | Charlotte's Journey Home

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