Dear Grace,

Next Saturday you turn seventeen.  I know. Such a cliche, the disbelief I feel, and such a deep truth, too.  It feels like a month ago you were born (2002), and like a week ago I started writing this blog (2006), because I wanted to capture details about you and your brother.  All those years, collapsed into a slurry of bright colors and joyful memories, the difficult moments mostly faded, though I know they were there. Hundreds of days – thousands! – whose details have faded but whose sense memories remain: laughter, love, notice-things walks, long drives to and from games, errands, card games, reading together, trips to Crane’s Beach, and a million more things I can’t list.

This is your third year at boarding school.  We miss you when you are gone and love when you are home, but we know you are in the right place.  It’s a joy to watch you flourish.  You were the one who wanted to explore boarding schools and who chose to go, and it’s been an unequivocal win.  You grow every year in maturity and independence.  Junior year is no joke.  This is a stressful season, there’s no question about it . But you are handling things with your characteristic organization and willingness to work hard.  That ability to understand what needs to happen and to grind to get it done will stand you in good stead in the world.  I know it will.

My sincere hope is that among all the AP classes and varsity sports and SAT prep and other commitments you can find pockets of time to simply be a teenager.  Your natural inclination towards hard work and prioritizing effort and accomplishment can sometimes occlude opportunities for delight.  Believe me, I relate to this tendency, to both its advantages and its downsides.

This is your fourth year running varsity cross-country, and your first as a captain.  I know it’s felt like a lot, and that you are frustrated by how hard it feels this year (physically and psychologically), but I applaud your good nature and willingness to keep at it even when there are so many competing demands on your time.  You are a leader on the team and we watch that with tremendous pride.  Keep at it.  Your team is different this year, I know, but it’s full of strong runners and there’s something to be gained from every experience.  You demonstrate real grit in the way you accept the ways things are different and continue focusing ahead.  This is one of many ways you inspire me.

There are many difficult-to-describe attributes that contribute to a happy life, but I think at the top of the list is likely who we choose as friends and companions.  This is an area where you shine.  I am impressed by the people you have chosen to be close to.  Dad and I have enjoyed meeting their parents who are, like their children, wonderful.  In both middle and high school you’ve navigated challenging social waters with self-knowledge and grace.  I know it’s not always easy, but I am so proud of the way you have chosen solid, trustworthy, dedicated, interesting people to be close to you.  By the way you haven’t let the sometimes overwhelming, sometimes confusing social currents overwhelm you.  I don’t think this – the selection of who we hold dear – is a trait that people note much but I think it’s vital to the future and I think you make excellent choices.

You’re on your way already, I know that.  You are a young woman, with a driver’s license and your own ideas about what you want and what matters to you.  It is the honor of my life to be yours and Whit’s mother, and as much as I miss your younger days, I love the young adult you’ve become and watch with anticipation as you step into your glittering future.  I’m always going to be here, watching from the wings, rooting for you even when I can’t see you (the cross-country metaphor, which extends now to the fact that you live outside of our home).  I know how hard you are working.  I want you to know that you are already enough.  You are already incredible.  Dad and I are watching you fly, speechless with pride and love.

To the girl who made me a mother, to my dream-come-true daughter, I love you, now and always.


Previous birthday letters to Grace are here: sixteen, fifteen, fourteen, thirteen, twelve, eleven, ten, nine, eight, seven, six.

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