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Dear Avery,

21 years old today? 

First of all, you’re grounded. 

Selfishly, I wish I could ground you and make you stay home with me. I wish I could hit rewind and replay a million little moments over the years that I cherish. I wish I could replay things like the sound of your young little child voice or the first time you discover something new whatever it may have been. I loved watching you get so excited at seeing different animals at the zoo for the first time, or the early times you saw a fish in a pond, or a pollywog. I miss you laying on the grocery store floor because you were too hot or too tired to keep walking the aisles with me. You didn’t cry or throw a tantrum, you just plopped down. Don’t do this as an adult though, it will be frowned upon. I miss you sleeping in the shopping cart while I picked up what we needed from the store and I really wish I had a photo of this. Almost every single time we went grocery shopping in the first two years of your life, you slept in the cart and I placed my items around you. I remember feeling absolutely exhausted at the store but completely at peace watching your sweet little sleeping face without a worry in the world. We used to rock-a-bye in the chair in my bedroom every evening so we could cuddle and watch a little hgtv together. When you were a baby I would hold you in my arms and sing to you while thinking to myself; this is the best part of my life, I hope it lasts forever. But you selfishly decided to grow up against my advice and here we are at your 21st birthday. 

Did I already tell you you’re grounded? 

You are. 

Come home right now. 

Do you remember twirling in the art museum? Twirling because you were 4 years old and you didn’t have a care in the world. You were with Mommy and Toni, and Aunt Diane, and the place was just so big! You were surrounded by works of art worth millions of dollars, but you didn’t know. You just twirled and giggled, and in that moment I knew that there was nothing more precious in this world than you. So when days get hard and it feels like it’s too much, twirl. Twirl and giggle and remember that hardships are temporary. They are tests of character and sometimes strength. Sometimes you need to remember how small you are in this big world to put things back into perspective. Then go out and make a big fuckin’ waves baby girl. Big waves. You’re too smart to live a small life. You have an impressive mind for research and creativity and compassion. And you have a heart full of love, especially for those who aren’t loved enough. Use them both, you were born to make a difference in people’s lives, even if it’s one person at a time.  

You’ve had an undeniable sense of self since about 5th grade. So much so, that other girls bullied you for  being comfortable in your Cabela’s hoodie and boots rather than the girly preppy style that Amherst girls typically find soothing in their large groups of insecurity and need to please their peers. I remember how upset you were when that happened, but I was grateful that you listened when I told you that you were already stronger than those girls who didn’t accept who you were. And you continued living your strong country influenced female life, no matter what anyone said. You built a great small group of friends that you will keep for the rest of your life and that’s what really matters. I wonder what’s happened to those mean girls since high school. I’m sure I could guess, though in the end, it doesn’t even matter. You’re already living life on your terms and that’s what I always wanted for you. 

You’ve been a take-charge kind of girl since the age of 3. You were the first grandchild and great-grandchild so you were surrounded by adults and having intelligent conversation starting at the age of about 2-2 ½ years old. Full conversations, not just phrases. You amazed me every single day of your childhood. You were such a fun child and teenager and now young adult.

On the day that Charlie was born, you became the best big sister a baby brother could ever have. Charlie had attention all the time because if I was busy, he was your priority even to the point that I had to make you backup a few times, so that I could tend to him myself. He probably doesn’t remember much of that, but I sure do. Charlie doesn’t know what a protector he has in you or how much you love him. He may not ever realize it, but that’s ok. Keep being who you are to him, he may never say it, but he will always appreciate it. Keep him in line, he needs it sometimes. 

You were Mema’s #1 and Sito’s #1, and that’s a special place to hold, I know from experience, having held that title myself. But remember, you were also my #1 and I’ve spent years praying that I didn’t mess you up with my own insecurities and failed relationships. I didn’t really want to be a mom when I found out you were coming and I was scared to death. Believe it or not, your dad is the one that convinced me that we’d be fine. I didn’t know how to be a mom when you decided to make your entrance into this world upside down and difficult, but baby girl, you changed all of that the instant that I saw your 8lb 2 oz baby face. Everything that I considered important flew right out the window when you were born, and my life became about getting to know who you were and how to let you become the best version of yourself. There are times I’d like to go back and do over with the knowledge that I have now, but we both know I can’t. I wish that anxiety didn’t riddle our family the way it does, or that trauma didn’t affect you, but it does. So we just keep moving forward, and I keep teaching you what I learn in hopes that it helps you along the way and you have the knowledge to break the cycle for your household. 

I love that you really try to see the good in everyone. I know that you have a protector's heart because you know what it feels like to be bullied because you dared to be different than the expected “norm”. I love that you fight for the underdog or the misunderstood. I like to think that we have that fighter’s heart in common, but we use it for good and not bar fights or needless scraps, but to give those weaker than us some support or a way out if they need it. I admire your willingness to get to know people that sit in your chair, even if they have a scarred background. You can really develop a great world view from learning about people that come from different backgrounds than your own. 

We never had a lot of money, because I prioritized my time with you over my career. I wish I could’ve provided more, a bigger home, fancier things, or more vacations. But our walks through the park are my favorite memories anyway, even over birthday parties and vacations. Those days cost us nothing except for maybe some ice cream, but gave us the most special quality time we ever spent, just walking and talking, and discovering. 

I had no problem working every day, but my early mornings, evenings, and weekends were always my time with you because I knew you wouldn’t be little forever and you always hear “ it goes by so fast”. When you’re exhausted and kids are crying and there’s nothing clean to wear, you sure wish the “fast” would hurry up- but let me tell you what, 21 years have flown by like a 20 minute nap. It’s like I fell asleep one afternoon when you were a toddler, and woke up to you having moved out and 3 hours away. I was lucky enough to find work that let you join me at work after school until my day was done and then eventually work from home, so I got more cherished moments than some moms ever get, but it will never feel like it was enough. 

So now here you are. A high school graduate that decided after trying college it wasn’t for you. Who had a professional license in hand the same week as your high school diploma and who’s been working ever since. You came home for a little while, re-grouped, made a plan and saved money to be able to move into your first apartment in a new city away from your family and start your life as an adult. You’ve had a successful relationship for four years now with plans for the future and a whole lifetime ahead of you. It is the joy of my life to watch you step further into adulthood and continue to enhance your character and experiences in life, but then facetime me so you can show me how cute the cats are. The time I spend with you now is never taken for granted and I miss you when we aren’t together, but I know that this is your time to fly and so you are. 

I’m so proud of you Piggy Wiggy. You’ll always be my greatest blessing. Happy Birthday baby girl I love you more. Now, let’s go get a (legal) drink and celebrate your 21 years on this rock. 

May love and comfort always surround you.

- Love, Mom


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