Where have 30 years gone?

You were a beautiful baby — not just physically, but in every way. You were happy, contented, and seemingly comfortable in every environment. You were very personable, too, even as an infant.

As we looked through the glass of the nursery window, I said to your father “Just think, tomorrow she’ll be dating.” That seemed to jolt him, and he said “She’s not dating until she’s 30.” Well, sweetheart, you’re 30 now and you can start dating.

I remember when you were three, and we were in Okinawa, and I got a letter from my mother telling me that my beloved grandmother had died unexpectedly. I burst into tears, and you wrapped your little arms around me and just stayed like that, letting me cry.

I used to get the biggest kick out of making you a little girlie girl. You loved it when I braided your hair and wrapped it into a bun. You loved your little ring-toed sandals, often wearing them to bed.

One day, when you were five, we were on a plane and you pointed to the ashtray that was built into the seat’s arm and said “That says PUSH.” Surprised, I asked you how you knew that and you said proudly “I sounded it out!” You’d begun to teach yourself to read.

You were 7 when we transferred to Hawaii. Your sister was 4 and your brother was just an infant. We worked the graveyard shift and Dad would go to bed as soon as we got home in the morning. I’d stay up with your sister and brother until it was time for the little ones nap at about noon or so and I’d fall asleep on the couch after putting them down. You’d get home from school at about 2:00 and fix a bottle for your brother, change his diaper, and keep him and your sister in his room quietly playing until Dad woke up around 3 or so. Nobody ever told you to do that, you just did it.

We did Girl Scouts and t-ball and soccer and we boogie-boarded for hours in the ocean (you were my water kid — the only one).

I remember sitting in the dark with you and watching it either snow or storm outside — we loved the thunderstorms, you and I. And there were other storms we weathered. My divorce from your father was probably the hardest for you, being only 11 at the time. I relied on you heavily to help out around the house and with your younger siblings. You rose to that occasion in ways that I probably didn’t acknowledge properly back in those days.

Remember Mr. Augello?

Your inability to wash ALL the dishes?

Splashing around in Lake Plainfield?

Michelle, you’ve also walked some roads that no mother ever wants to see her daughter walk. Kicking that asshole Kenny to the curb was the beginning of your ascension out of the mire you’d found yourself in, and you’ve turned your life around with beauty and grace and dignity.

And now you face another challenge. While I’m sad for you, I’m also very confident that the strength and grit you’ve shown all your life will get you through this as well.

I look up to you. I admire so many things about you that I can only sum it up by saying that I love you very much. Very much.

But, do me a favor? Stop having birthdays so fast, okay?

Love you, sweetie!