You knew this was coming, so there’s no need for a salutation to begin. The past week I’ve watched you flit around the house, your lanky arms swinging, ponytail pulling hair tight to your forehead, and laugh peeling through the air when your corgi nips at you on the floor. Your laugh makes me smile. I remember the very first day I saw you, filled with nervous excitement and my bare feet hot on the wood of the front porch in June. A baby’s scream filled the air as they took you from the car because you hated the road. Even then, being cooped up inside tormented you. We celebrated your first year of life that day, nearly a week late. Chocolate cake stained your face, and you crawled so quickly away from the girls and me. But you weren’t shy. You belonged to us.
We used to call you Scout, from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. I wish it would have caught on. Maybe it was your freckles, love for the outdoors, and insatiable curiosity. But I think it was your fearlessness, the way you approached anything without hesitation. You would pry living animals, mice or baby bunnies, from the jaws of our dogs and cats, like a young heroine, to rescue them. You ran faster than most boys, and would be so angry when they beat you in races. You, in the summer, set your young eyes on the diving board and went to it like it was calling your name. Confidence still radiates from you, and for that, I am thankful.
If there is one thing that Scout can leave in your soul, I hope it is compassion. Atticus once told the young girl, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” In the years to come, I hope you develop a love for all living things and I hope you have the fearlessness to save those who need it the most. At this point in your life, it is so easy to want to be with those who make you look good and fit into the crowd. But I have been that girl on the edge of the room and I’ve seen plenty of friends suffer after not being included. I know it’s hard, but I hope that you can see through their eyes and extend friendship during these years.
There are those who say the number thirteen is lucky. Thirteen, in my opinion, is one of the toughest years. It builds you up in a wave only to throw you back under the water. Sometimes you feel like you’re isolated, alone and drowning, nothing is clear. Yet, always you will float to the top to see peaceful, calm waters before you. I’ve watched you grow, and all the while I experienced some things in my life that I hope you will not have to. And maybe that’s why I’m worried about you, nervous for what lies ahead. In the thirteenth year, your emotions provide the violent storms. But boys, they provide the hurricanes. A heat and energy can overwhelm you, causing infinite chaos. Yet you do it all for the short-lived eye of the storm, the calm and serenity of a short burst of happiness. And then it’s over, and a back wall hits, disaster lasting for weeks, months, even years.
It’s unavoidable. And I will honestly tell you that I don’t regret moments in my life. Even in the wake of destruction, every single hurricane has taught me a lesson. For that, I am immensely grateful to take the things I have learned and create a life-vest to use in the future. These are the things that help you survive. My hope is that when you are hurt, you will take those moments and use them yourself. I hope if you do chose to surrender to a storm, that you pick a boy who respects you. I chose the ones who made me laugh, the ones who were mysterious, or the ones who I thought I could change and understand better than anyone else. And they were wonderful when it was good. But the eye of a storm never lasts—people change, you grow apart, and you want a new direction. I might have suffered in those hurricanes, but they all taught me something for the future. Happiness doesn’t just come from others. The most euphoric moments of my life have been alone. I have felt personal success. I have laughed until I cried. I have traveled the world. Life is sometimes easier without the hurricanes, yes. But I couldn’t survive without them, and I hope you will learn from them, too.
You are stubborn, and it’s a natural trait that is contagious in our family. Willfulness is a blessing and a curse, at times. I hope you will learn soon that our family is so special and unique in the way that we care for each other. Mom and Dad know more than you think they do, and I hope it doesn’t take twenty years of your life to realize this, like it took me. The best lesson I ever learned from them was to never quit something you start. The follow-through has always been something hard for me, but that lesson pushed me to think critically about the work I produced inside and outside the classroom. Go to them when you have questions or need advice. Nobody knows you better than our parents, and nobody finds things out like our parents.
People have asked me before if I consider you to be a sister, and I immediately ask, “Compared to what?” You belong to us the way we belong to you. We are tied together. For that reason, I hope you take these words to heart. I hope you find compassion for others during these years, learn to stand on your own, and have the courage to listen. I’m so excited to see where the journey of life takes you, Katie Cat, and I wish you all of the best.