To WonderGirl, On Her 18th Birthday

November 14, 2006

(To be opened November 14, 2023)My dear, dear WonderGirl,

Once upon a time, not too long ago, sweet girl, you were WonderBaby. You were my WonderBaby.

When you turned one year old, you stood 32 inches tall. Your head was big and round with tufts of yellow hair, and your eyes were big and blue and sparkling with curiosity. You held that sweet round head high, your shoulders always back, your proud chest thrust out to meet the world. You marched through life, on two steady feet, belly-forward. You were as self-assured as a much older child, and yet, you were still my baby.

You loved Mandarin oranges, and tofu, and cheese.

You taught yourself to walk (and roll and climb) at the first opportunity, and by your first birthday, you were running and clambering and exploring this big wonderful world as quickly and thoroughly as you could. You were as sure-footed as a child many times your age, but you were still my baby.

Your first recognizable words were Mama and Dada, but you very quickly added Hi, Bye, Book (buk) and Cat (ka) to your arsenal of words, which you always held in reserve until the moment that each would have its most devastating, heart-melting effect.You loved to explore, and to learn, and by the time you turned one year old, you had figured out how to get past baby gates and how to open doors and you made it clear, with every step, that nothing would hold you back. You were always looking for new faces, new things, new landscapes, but you always kept one eye on the whereabouts of your Mommy, or your Da. You delighted at encountering both the familiar and the strange. You were fearless, but you were, always, my baby.

On your first birthday, you started the day with a squeal of delight, and spent the morning racing about the house, chasing cats and pulling books from the shelf and refusing breakfast because everything was just too interesting and there were just too many things to do and I looked at you and I thought, what a powerful, powerful little person my baby is. Such a little person. But still my baby.

I looked at you and I was astounded: my baby, turning into a little girl. My heart pounded and swelled and broke, just a little bit, as it expanded to contain the flood of love and the flood of hope and the flood of fear. You were growing, as I watched. You were becoming you, ever more you, and, so, ever less me. The time and distance from your birth, one year prior, was so great that for a moment I thought that, if I were to look back, really, I would not be able to see across that distance. At the moment of your birth, you were still part of me, flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood. As I looked at you on your first birthday, I saw – and thrilled and wept for seeing – that you were so rapidly becoming you.

And now, so many years, you are you. I know this, without having yet seen it.

I don’t know you – the grown-up you, the you of your future, of my future – yet. I’m writing this on the occasion of your first birthday: there are many years still to come before I know the grown-up you, the you who will read this letter and wonder at her mother’s sentimentality. I’m only just starting to know you, even though, in so many respects, I already know you better than I do any other being, and even though it will be many, many years before another human being knows you as well as I do. As remarkable as it seems to say so, I am only just now – in this, your first year – starting to know you. It is my hope, my wish, my intention that I will always strive to know you, to understand you. It is my wish, my hope – however misguided it may turn out to be, at times – that you will always let me.

I don’t know what will happen (what has happened, if we are truly looking backward, from the vantage of your 18th year) between your first and your eighteenth birthdays. I don’t know, yet, the stages that you will go through. I know that there will be much joy, much laughter, many smiles. I know that there will be much love, and many hugs. I know that we will have shared all of these things, in spades, by the time you read this letter.

I know, too, that we will have shared many tears. We will have shared pain. I’m certain that there will have been misunderstandings, resentments, confusion between us. I’m certain that there will have been many, many times that you will have felt such a great distance from me – and I from you – that the fact of our closeness, the fact of the bond of flesh and blood and heart between us, will have been forgotten, lost somewhere over the horizon of the space between us, mother and daughter.

But that fact – the fact that you are my flesh, my blood, my soul, my heart – will, always, remain. For as much as you grow and live and live and grow and become you – wonderful, brilliant, beautiful you; sure-footed, self-assured, fearless you – you will always be mine, you will always be my heart.

You will always, always be my baby.

I love you.

November 14, 2006

Happy Birthday, Baby. Happy Birthday.

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    Mary Tsao November 14, 2006 at 8:32 pm

    Beautiful letter and the best gift future-always-wonder-baby could ever get.

    Love the photos. So sweet!

    Nancy November 14, 2006 at 9:42 pm

    So beautiful, Catherine. Happy Birthday to WonderBaby and all the best to her wonderful Mommy!

    metro mama November 14, 2006 at 10:25 pm

    Beautiful words, beautiful babe. Wonderful mother. Happy Birthday WonderBaby.


    Mimi November 14, 2006 at 10:25 pm

    You ever hear that Vinyl Cafe story, where Morley gets pregnant/gives birth to Stephanie? And the final line is Dave saying something like, “I knew in that instant [of her birth] that this little girl is going to break my heart someday”. I have always thought of that in regards to my own Miss Baby, and it’s a sentiment you’ve really captured here in your letter to WonderTeen. Happy first anniversary of this very special relationship of Mom and Daughter.

    Oh, The Joys November 14, 2006 at 10:39 pm

    Just more evidence of why “Her Bad Mother” is such an ironic name for you!

    urban-urchin November 14, 2006 at 11:28 pm

    I am tearing up as I read this. So beautiful. I did this with both my kids- wrote letters to them to be opened on their 21st birthday, and had our close friends and family do the same. Although mine was a bunch of “I LOVE YOU SO MUCCCCHHHH” and not quite as well written as this one here.

    Happy Birthday sweet Wonderbaby.

    ali November 14, 2006 at 11:50 pm


    i don’t think she’ll ever be anything other than wonderbaby.

    Queso November 14, 2006 at 11:59 pm

    So sweet. And such a fantastic idea. Please know that I’m stealing this idea.

    jennster November 15, 2006 at 12:00 am

    this was brilliant! and awww- and awwwwwww some more.. and you are on the radio right now! lol

    krista November 15, 2006 at 12:01 am

    Aw! Happy Birthday Wonderbaby!

    (PS- I am listening to you talk right now on blog radio! Isn’t that spiffy!?)

    MotherBumper November 15, 2006 at 12:11 am

    What a beautiful letter to a beautiful girl. Happy Birthday WB.

    Darn it. You made me get damp eyes.

    nomotherearth November 15, 2006 at 12:33 am

    Beautiful. Truly. You made me get all misty. Happy Birthday, WB.

    Elizabeth November 15, 2006 at 12:33 am

    She is the most beautifully photogenic little girl! Happy Birthday to your most precious baby, who I’m sure will still be wonderful at age 18.

    Mayberry November 15, 2006 at 12:49 am

    Happy 1st, and Happy 18th, WonderBaby, from one of your many, many blog-aunts.

    GIRL'S GONE CHILD November 15, 2006 at 12:52 am

    Happy Birthday, Wonderbaby!

    Beautiful as always.

    What a lucky child.

    Dana November 15, 2006 at 1:03 am

    This letter is very beautiful. I loved reading every minte of it.

    Dawson would like to wish WonderBaby a very Happy First Birthday! And he says to tell her she’s got the best mama ever!

    nonlineargirl November 15, 2006 at 1:59 am

    Happy birthday wonderbaby and mama!

    Haley-O November 15, 2006 at 2:08 am

    Oh my gosh…I’m going to cry. That is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing it. I love the pictures, too.

    mo-wo November 15, 2006 at 2:50 am

    Ah, Bad. So fine this testament.

    You asked about the birthday when i reposted here. Yes that was E. first birthday. It is an odd event really — what you say here is indicative of its celebration of separation and a little of what I tried to ask. They are really such self-satisfying people at age one it is glorious.

    Happy Birthday Wonder Girl!

    lara November 15, 2006 at 2:59 am

    damn you’re a good writer. i’m in tears here – again – with the power of your words. many wonderful wishes to you all on this momentous occasion.

    Joker The Lurcher November 15, 2006 at 3:05 am

    a wonderful letter! i have been writing a letter to my son on the night before each of his birthdays. its started when i was in hospital on a drip being induced. that one is addressed to “dear baby” as i didn’t know if i was going to have a boy or a girl. the others are addressed to him and tell him all about the year just gone, what he has learnt, who he has played with, how proud we are of him. i plan to give them to him when he is 18.

    i started this because there were so many questions i would have asked my own mother that now will never be answered and i wanted him to have a record of how much he meant to me if anything were to happen to me. i can never read them without crying.

    your letter is truly lovely – it sums up the whole thing of the unknown stretching ahead of us as parents. i reckon your little one will do something really special with her life. it will be lovely for her to read how she was at one year old.

    give her and yourself a huge hug from us!

    creative-type dad November 15, 2006 at 3:50 am

    I don’t even know what to say – Wow!
    Great pictures and amazing writing.

    Aqua November 15, 2006 at 6:09 am

    loved the letter. wish i had written one to my dd as well when she turned one. your letter was terrible…it made me tear up and now i’m sniffing as I write this. all the people at work will think i’m going bonkers
    *smiles and blows her nose loudly*

    chichimama November 15, 2006 at 7:46 am

    Many tears. Happy birthday WonderBaby!

    Heather November 15, 2006 at 9:18 am

    What beautiful bright eyes – Hope the years bring much happiness to you both.

    Laural Dawn November 15, 2006 at 9:48 am

    That was beautiful.

    Mrs. Chicky November 15, 2006 at 10:29 am

    So beautiful. Happy Happy Birthday Wonderbaby!! And Happy Birth Day to you, Mama.

    K November 15, 2006 at 10:37 am

    Sigh. Crying at 9:30am. Damn.

    That’s lovely.

    And the next year… – is pretty damn fabulous.

    radioactive girl November 15, 2006 at 11:30 am

    Happy birthday Wonderbaby! Congratulations to you for making it through the first year. Wonderbaby is beautiful! The letter is beautiful! Now I need to go find some tissue…

    Karla November 15, 2006 at 11:34 am

    That is such a beautiful and touching letter. So so lovely.

    Thank you for sharing it.

    scribbit November 15, 2006 at 11:51 am

    That last photo is the sweetest thing. I can just smell the new-baby smell . . . better watch it or I’ll be wanting another one.

    crazymumma November 15, 2006 at 12:00 pm

    Oh Bad Mother….oh….

    happy birthday little big girl. The world is your oyster.

    Kate November 15, 2006 at 12:19 pm

    Happy birthday, WonderBaby! And we all know that someday you’ll be WonderGirl, and then WonderChick… happy birthday then, too!

    charlie November 15, 2006 at 12:27 pm

    What a beautiful tribute to the love that is to come, between the two of you. I hope that the happiness you feel in giving the letter to WonderGirl 17 years from now is as much as you must have felt writing it yesterday.

    Congratulations on a year well done, all three of you.

    dreadmouse November 15, 2006 at 12:41 pm

    That was truly beautiful. Thank you for sharing it with us, and I hope that you and your daughter will be as happy 17 years from now as you are today.

    owlhaven November 15, 2006 at 12:46 pm

    sweet!!! before you know it she’ll be old enough to read that letter!!

    Mary, mom to many, including an 18 year old

    C. November 15, 2006 at 12:53 pm

    Beautiful. How nice that you took the time to write that.

    Happy Bday Wonderbaby!

    Much More Than A Mom November 15, 2006 at 1:17 pm

    I’m crying. What a wonderful gift.

    Happy birthday, WB!

    Gabriella November 15, 2006 at 1:39 pm

    too beautiful. She will be so proud to have such a mom like you!
    Happy Birthday wonderbaby!

    Her Bad Mother November 15, 2006 at 1:42 pm

    I was nervous to share this letter, just a bit. Fear of too much sharing, too much cheese. But now I think that I will preserve *two* copies of this letter – one on its own, the other with all of the post-script comments and well-wishes from her blog-aunties and uncles.


    kittenpie November 15, 2006 at 2:20 pm

    Lovely, and so exactly true.
    I already get corrected, “I’m not a baby.” No, but you’re my baby. Always my baby.

    It’s inevitable and quite correct that they’ll find us corny and sentimental – but knowing it’s how things should be doesn’t make it easier, does it? Any day now I’ll be busting out that immortal line, “Just wait till you have kids, then you’ll understand.” Heh. No wonder we become our mothers.

    Happy birthday WonderBabe! Go easy on your mom today, okay? It’s a weird spot for a mom to be in.

    penelopeto November 15, 2006 at 2:36 pm

    you’re not supposed to make me cry at work.

    happy birthday to wondergirl, and as i said to B&P – happy BIRTH day to you.

    Bobita November 15, 2006 at 3:17 pm

    So very, very beautiful.

    Happy Birthday Wonderbaby.

    Amanda November 15, 2006 at 4:41 pm

    Oh, what a beautiful, sentimental, special letter that you have written to your daughter. I am inspired to continue writing my letter to my girl that I started a few months back. Your daughter will cry when she reads that one day, I’m convinced!

    something blue November 15, 2006 at 5:50 pm

    I’m sure WonderGirl on her 18th birthday will be every bit the joy that she is on her 1st.

    To think of the millions of times since she’s been born when your heart exploded with love and pride and multiply that by eighteen.

    Happiness always,

    bunmaster November 15, 2006 at 6:51 pm

    Happy Belated Birthday! She’s a lucky girl to have so much love.

    Christina November 15, 2006 at 7:04 pm

    Sigh…I want to write on and on about how beautiful that was, but my emotions got the best of me, and now I’m crying. Simply beautiful.

    ewe are here November 15, 2006 at 7:16 pm

    It’s a lovely, lovely letter. What a gift Wonderbaby will be getting when she turns 18. And what a gift she already has in you.

    Happy Birthday, WonderBaby.

    Melissa November 15, 2006 at 7:34 pm

    Beautiful, just beautiful.

    Happy 1st birthday to Wonder Baby and many, many more to come.

    Ruth Dynamite November 15, 2006 at 9:27 pm

    So very sweet. Happy birthday, Wonder Baby. And congratulations to you, Mom!

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