Dear Zoe and Talia,

These letters get more sappy as the years go by, but I hope someday, when I’m gone, you can look at them and know how much I loved you. This past year for you has been strange, to say the least. The other day, in fact, Zoe came into my room and said, “We’re going to be nineteen. What the hell did I do when I was eighteen?”

My response was immediate: “Cut yourself some slack. Six weeks into your new year, the state shut down. And then we’ve been stringent with safety rules.”

You nodded, Zoe, but I don’t think you were convinced.

At the time, I didn’t think much of our conversation, but later, your words came back to me. What did you do? While you might not be able to see it, you’ve done a hell of a lot. You helped with the increased load around the house. You graduated high school. You’ve made your siblings and parents laugh. You’ve spent time with your aunt and cousins (who quarantined at their home and became a part of our pod—the only part of our pod). You’ve brought hope to your grandpa. You successfully navigated remote learning for your first semester of college. (YOU ACCOMPLISHED YOUR FIRST SEMESTER OF COLLEGE!) You’ve survived this pandemic with at least a modicum of your sanity intact.

You probably think I’m kidding, but I’m not. My guess is that the year you turned eighteen might be one of the most challenging you will see in your lifetime. And whether you recognize it now or not, you will have learned from it.

That’s what life is, girls. Learning.

So I wish you more fruitful days and laughter and love. Hours spent with friends—in the same room—and the ability to physically stand on the Ohio University campus. Moments with the sun on your face and the wind at your back. Whatever you want, I wish it for you. But I also wish two other things—that you always, always learn from what you’ve experienced and that you find much peace and joy in those lessons and in life.

Last year, I didn’t know what was on the horizon—what lessons I was to learn—and on your birthday I asked these questions:

Do I even want to know how many more days you have left in our house? Can I hold onto you forever? Can I ask you to visit every weekend? Can I beg you not to leave?

So as hard as it has been for you to realize your first year at college would be with us at home, I’m grateful for the extra time I’ve had with you. So, so grateful. But now you and I know it’s time.

To move on. Move out. To fly away.

Happy Birthday, Zoe and Talia. The nest is always open.

Image of dove placard with number on it by AnnaER at Pixabay.com.

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