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Middle Girl,

Today is the day. You are finally four. I say finally because you have been so eager about this birthday. Every morning this week, you have been up before six, lingering by my side of the bed, asking if it is your birthday. And each morning, we've taken a look at that big calendar Mommy keeps so she doesn't forget everything, and we point at the days. Five more days. Four more days. Three more days. Two more days. Tomorrow. Today. Today is the day.

And today will be a good day. You will wake up and we will have breakfast together - pink donuts and eggs with tomato and you will wear your birthday crown from school and you will open a few gifts and you will smile. And we will go to school. And I will stand at the door as you settle into one of those little chairs and do a puzzle and say hi to your friends. And then, hours later, your big sister and I will grab you and take you to soccer class. You are the only girl in the class, but you are also the best player and this makes me wildly proud. Once upon a time, your Mommy played on an all-boys' soccer team. It's kind of fun to go back.

And after soccer, per your repeated request, we will take the subway to Times Square to "the biggest toy store ever" and you will pick something. And I know it will be Strawberry Shortcake toy because that's all you talk about these days and, again, this makes me smile because Mommy loved Strawberry as a kid. It's kind of fun to go back.

When Daddy comes home from work, we will eat something and we will sing and celebrate. There will be cupcakes or cake, store-bought sorry, but it will all be tasty and good. And then there will be snuggles and stories and our secret song. And then we will tuck you in, and line up your four pink giraffe lovies right under your chin just like you like it. And you will ask for my yellow scarf as you do every night now and I will find it and you will wrap it around you and I will ask you why you like to sleep with it and you will say the words you always say: Because it smells like Mommy. And we will kiss you and your sister goodnight. And then Daddy and I will have our night and when we go to sleep, I know I will lie there on my side and think and maybe feel a pang. Because you are four today. And this seems impossible.

Here are some things I want you to remember about your four-year-old self: You are incredibly expressive. You raise your eyebrows and roll your eyes and purse your lips and flip your hair. When I take your picture, you tilt your head and your blue eyes sparkle and you look like a teenager, a fact that delights me and frightens me in equal measure. You are feminine, but far from delicate. If you had your way, you'd wear a skirt or dress every day, but you are tough and physical, as at home with boys as with girls. Here's a good example: Playing with Barbies for you means grabbing them by the tangled blond hair and whipping them around and around. I think you figure that they are tough like you.

Oh, and this is maybe my favorite memory of you from the year. We were in the back of taxi and I turned to you girls and I asked a question that so many people will ask you, but I was curious. What do you want to be when you grow up? And you thought about it and then you looked up at me, and said it: "A Rememberer. I want to be a Rememberer." At the time, this struck me as poetic and perfect and wonderfully precocious. It meant a great deal to me to hear this from you because this is what I try to be day after day - a Rememberer. This letter is an example, kid; I am trying to make sure I remember this. All of this.

But your taxi cab comment went on to make more sense. At some point, we started playing games and you quickly realized that you were very good at them. I saw a mischievous glimmer in your eye with each victory; you are competitive, you like winning. And one of your favorites has been a matching game - Strawberry Shortcake of course - and it blows us away, but you beat all of us every time. Never once have I let you win. Never once. A Rememberer indeed.

And I want you to remember this day. Your fourth birthday. I hope, years from now, you look back on this day, and maybe these words, and smile. I hope your mind floods with happy images of life and love and sisters and frosting, and Strawberry, too. Of course Strawberry.

Morning after morning, day after day, year after year, you bring me incredible and abiding joy, my girl. Thank you.

I love you to itty-bitty pieces. Pieces of sky.



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