Birthday Letter to the Grand Finale

Dear Jenna,

Today is your 11th birthday. You are our Grand Finale. Our Swan Song. Our Camel’s Straw. You’ve been told that you were a BIG surprise. From that, you’ve interpreted that you were an accident. It is a joke around the house. And while it’s true you were a huge surprise to me (HUGE), I think it’s far truer that you were 100% planned. By God. You were and are a miracle.

As you complete your 11th year on earth today, here are 11 things you need to know about you:

  1. You were allergy tested before you turned 1. You tested as highly allergic to every food except three: chicken, lamb, and white potatoes. I cried all way home from that appointment because you were going to starve and so was I. On your first birthday, we had a party and you ate a banana in place of the cake you couldn’t eat. You were allergic to the banana too, but less so than cake.
  2. At 20 months, you discovered Sharpies and repainted the house black. It only took you 6 minutes to do it. Walls, tile floors, carpets, kitchen table. You colored everything you could contact in the 6 minutes it took me to put away a small stack of laundry.
  3. At 2, Grandmama and Granddaddy named you The Destroyer. You broke more glass trinkets in a year than I have broken in a lifetime.
  4. You sing like a canary but your expression never matches. When you sing, you look angry and vengeful. People are frightened. Maybe you have more of a radio face.
  5. You were so easy in so many ways. Potty training was not one of those. It was a nightmare fit for a docuseries. Potty training you was an emotionally jarring, deeply scarring process. This can only mean one thing for you: you are in for it when I’m old and in my own set of diapers.
  6. You are funny. Very funny. Funny to adults and kids alike. You can play creative social games with adults and keep up like you own the joint. You will get funnier as you age and I look forward to being in the front row of whatever performance you are commanding.
  7. You are creative. Always thinking of your next poem or story or song.
  8. #7 causes a lot of mess trails in my house. I can always tell what type of project you have going, where the project started, and where it ended right before you got up and thoughtlessly walked away from it. You should never try to commit a felony unless prison time is your goal. You’ll get caught by the trail you leave.
  9. You are my most snuggly child. You put up with whatever I toss at you, almost never rejecting me because you are tired or grumpy. That takes away about 1/3 of the pain of potty training you. Maybe we can negotiate forgiveness of the other 2/3.
  10. You get away with far more than you should. This is my fault, not yours. Still don’t commit a felony. Because of the trail.
  11. You are equal parts anxious and confident. You are absolutely fearless in putting yourself out there or being alone or trying new things. You are absolutely terrified of vomiting, or anything even 6 degrees removed from it. Tonight as you were going to bed you said that you are never going to be fixed. To that I say, you will be helped, but you don’t need fixing. You are amazing as you are.

I wasn’t young and fresh-faced when I had you, a fact you remind me of whenever you start doing graduation math or wedding math or anything of the like. And it wasn’t my idea to have my two youngest children be 18 months apart. But if I’ve learned only one thing in life, it’s this: God’s ideas are perfect. And you were His idea. Clearly. So tonight, I celebrate you in all your peculiar glory. Happy Birthday. I hope you enjoyed your banana.