A Letter to Our Youngest Daughter on the Day You were Born

img_0041Today is your birthday.

No, today is the actual day you were born.

Hi, we’re your family.

Laura–you can call her mom–is going to teach you how to draw, and sew, and cook from the heart and lots of other really amazing things. She’s sweet and generous and has a mouth like a sailor. You’ll figure out pretty quickly that there’s grown-up words and kid words and you should stick to kid words. For now, at least. Your mom is going to teach you how to swim, too. Pay attention.

Amelia, your sister, is rad. She is going to read lots of things to you and probably dress you for the first few years of your life. She’s got a 5 year head start, but she’s basically brand new, too. She is hilarious and will probably try to tickle you a lot.

I’m your dad. I don’t really know what I’m doing a lot of the times, but I promise you I am doing my best. I’m going to try to teach you some cool stuff, too. How to ride a bike. How to use a hammer properly. How to bake. Your sister is getting pretty good at that stuff, so I have no doubt you’ll do well, too.

You have some amazing aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, second cousins, great aunts, great uncles…the list goes on and on. (I’ll be honest, you have some aunts and uncles who aren’t technically related.) Every one of them is awesome. And I can’t wait for you to meet them all. You’re going to have so much fun with them. You will learn pretty quickly which ones can get you into trouble and which ones can get you out of it. Figuring it out will be half the fun.

It breaks my heart that you will never have the chance to meet my dad’s parents or his brother. Your great grandmother, Juanita, was amazing. When I was growing up we lived next door to her and your great grandfather, Hermilo. We would have dinner at their house a couple of nights each week and have a big meal together on Sunday afternoons. She never came right out and said so, but I learned that cooking for someone is a very simple way of saying, “I love you.” She would whip up a little snack for me after school and she would take her time and make it just how she knew I wanted it because that’s how she was.

My grandparents also taught me what it meant to have an open door. My grandparents welcomed everyone in at any time of day. They had so many visitors at every hour of the day. Every Thanksgiving we would eat at my grandparents’ house. Every Thanksgiving my dad would tell us about a friend of his at work that didn’t have a family in town so he’d invited them to come eat with us. I don’t remember any of them ever coming, but my first year in college I did the same thing. My friend Daniel came to Thanksgiving at my grandparents’ house and they welcomed him like one of the family. This is how I’d like our house to be.

One time a few of the grandkids accidentally knocked over my uncle Adam’s motorcycle. If anyone found out about it we’d be in so much trouble. Grandma came out and put it right side up for us. I’m not sure if she ever told or if my uncle Adam ever found out about it, but nothing ever happened to us.

Your great grandfather once told me it was bad luck to drive past your own house without stopping. When I mentioned this to my parents a couple of years later, they laughed at me because I should have known he didn’t believe in luck. He was, however, a man of immeasurable faith. When he went in for one of his many heart surgeries, the surgeon carefully explained what the procedure would entail and were very frank about the gravity of the situation. My grandpa said simply, “just do your best.” His faith rested not in the hands of doctors, but with God. It is a faith that I’ve never found. He was funny and smart, kind and caring. He once told me he used to be a better sheet metal worker than your grandpa. One day I’ll ask him what he thinks.

Your grandpa’s brother is a whole different story. I’ve known him my whole life and I still wish I had gotten to know him better. My Tio Junior was a lot of fun. I’ve always thought your uncle Aaron reminded me of him. He might seem quiet but once you get him going it’s a lot of fun. Some of my favorite memories are sitting around playing cards with the family and he is always there. You’ll never really get to know him, but I promise if you listen, you’ll hear some great stories.

I don’t mean to be a downer; we normally try to focus on the positives around here. You have a great family. You’ll soon figure out there’s the family we’re born with and the family we choose, and they’re all important. You have a family name just like your sister. This is who we are. We carry with us the hopes and dreams of every one who has come before us and there’s a responsibility that comes with that.

I’m not going to ask for much from you. Treat everyone with kindness and respect. Try new things. Always try to do the right thing.

One last thing, we are not always going to get along. We’re going to disagree and we will argue. There will be times where you might be afraid to tell me something because you’re worried I’ll get angry or I’ll be disappointed, but no matter what, I love you just as you are and no matter what you do. The rest we’ll figure out.