Because (How In the World Did We Already Get to Seventeen?)

Dear Zoe and Talia,

Somehow, your birthdays always sneak up on me. I know the date of your birth. I think about that date as Christmas comes and goes, as the New Year celebration waves goodbye, as we get back into the swing of things with school and extracurriculars. I have time, I always think to myself. Time to prepare a menu. Time to figure out what cakes to make. Time to find presents. Time to compose my thoughts about you and your latest trips around the sun. And then, a few days before January 31, I realize how much time I don’t have.

This year was no different, and I worried for a moment about what I could and would say to you here. But life has a way of sending us messages, if we listen. And several days ago, as I sat in the car waiting for your brother–always waiting for that one, aren’t I?–an NPR program host was talking to a guest about teens. About their needs, their moods, their learning styles, their demands, and what it’s like to love them. At the end of the program, the host asked the guest some last thoughts. He concluded the piece with a short excerpt from Nikki Giovanni’s poem, Resignation, in which the speaker touts the absoluteness of her love. As the guest pointed out, the stanza he featured could be used, quite aptly, with respect to teenagers. To paraphrase, the speaker loves the person more than anything–more than privacy, commitments, even freedom.

Of course, I nodded my head in agreement and wiped a quick tear from my eye.

I’ve always loved that poem, but to be honest, I’ve never taken a second look at that stanza in particular. But in honor of your seventeenth (17! What the heck?) birthdays, I took that second (and third) look and wrote you a poem. As you very well know, I might be a writer, but I’m no poet. So while I tried to mimic the sentiment and structure (at least as much as my rudimentary WP tabs would let me), please note that nothing in this poem comes close to what Giovanni achieved.

I love you
    because the sun sparkles off your hair
        your warmth
    because people are people
        and you are my people
    because creeks and rivers merge
        and form larger bodies of water
    because my love for you
        crushes me in unexpected ways
        lifts me up in others
        tethers me to the now
I love you
    because I had no choice but to love you
I love you
    like my inclination to read books in bed
        or running to keep myself sane
        or my longing for peace and quiet
        when life gets to be too much
    because I prefer milk in my coffee
        Cheerios for breakfast
        leftovers for lunch
        when I get to sit with you
    because I wake up and tiptoe
        so as not to wake your sweet faces
    because you haunt me every day
        with your loveliness
I love you
    because I choose to
        it’s what I want
I am in complete awe
    of my love for you
    the emotion overwhelms me
    as do you each day
I am amazed by you
    your character your passion
    your wit and humor and grace
    your response to social justice
    your dedication to the craft
I love you
    because each of you is the same but different
    an image much like the other
    but not alike at all
    when I look at the details
I love you
    because in the dark of night
    when I cannot sleep eyes open
    my mind detours to you both
    a smile forms across my face
I love you
    because you made me
        a better person a better citizen
        a better woman a better daughter
I love you
    because I want you to feel the most
    powerful emotion in the galaxy
    and see how it can transform
        a life
I love you
All of you
Both of you

Happiest of birthdays to you, my girls! As always, I’m looking so forward to what your futures hold.

Love, Mom

Image of birthday cake and 17 candle by masbebet christianto at

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