Thursday, April 23, 2020

Happy Sweet 16, Happiness

I return to this completely ignored space to acknowledge my daughter's 16th birthday.  

Dear Darling Daughter,

This is not how you wanted your 16th birthday to be.

You had it all planned since January.  Well actually you started planning on the day you turn 15 because that is how you roll but we'll leave that part out.  You were going to have a dinner with friends this past Saturday, have cake and dinner of your choice this evening with me and Dad then head to your surrogate auntie's house to sleep over.  The day after your birthday you were going to Saratoga Springs, NY to spend the weekend at your first regatta as a varsity rower while your dad and I were going to fly super early in the morning to California to watch both your brothers in the National College Rugby Championships.  It was all planned.

Then a pandemic struck.  All those plans were cancelled and our lives were upended.

My worst birthday as a kid was around age 7 or 8 years old when I got a stomach bug and my parents had to postpone the party, stick the Ohlin's cake in the freezer and have the party a few weeks later.  But I still got to have my party pretty close to my actual birthday and Ohlin's cakes still tasted really good after being frozen.

Your 16th birthday, in fact this particular teenage year, can't easily be rescheduled or postponed.  You aren't getting to row with the varsity girls - a goal you've worked towards for over a year - and every regatta has been cancelled not to be rescheduled.  You were going to attend a dance with your boyfriend who you haven't seen in nearly six weeks.  That dance cannot happen and we don't know when you'll be able to see him.

That is what is so hard to watch for you, your friends and all other teens and young adults.  This is the age when you have big moments that can't be done over because they celebrate a distinct achievement, a particular point of time and age or a rite of passage.  There is nothing in our society that is particularly momentous about being 27 or 32 or 51 though ask someone about their teen years and there are stories, events, moments that could only happen during that age.

Yet, and yet, you have been the strongest, most reliable one in the house of five humans and one dog.  You have been diligent about your school work, take very seriously being engaged and present during Zoom class time and have stayed connected with friends via all those things you use (maybe that last one you were actually in-training for just this situation).  You have rowed every day on the erg your team loaned out.  You have, mostly, kept it together (hey, no one is perfect) and tried to stay positive through this.

Your happiness, the happiness you've had since you were born, keeps shining through.

That's what I hope you remember from this.  What your stories will be when you recount this time 40, 50, 60 years from now.

That you got through this with focus, determination, grit and happiness.

Happy Sweet 16.

I love you,