Dear Whit,

Sixteen.  In quarantine.  You are the fourth member of our family to celebrate a birthday in quarantine.  Which is an indicator of how long this has been going on.  Wow.

More importantly.  You.  My blond boy who arrived in the middle of the night, in a huge hurry (we often joke this was the first and last time you were early for anything).  Who surprised us all with his blue eyes, his blond hair, and the fact of his boy-ness.  And you’ve been surprising me ever since.  Dad used to tell me that parenting was 95% nature and I didn’t fully believe it until you were born, so different from your sister, so entirely yourself.  It’s been my job since that cold January night to stay out of your way, but close enough that I can learn from, and laugh with you.

Sixteen!  Wow.  Time flies, which is SUCH a cliche but also such a truth.

This photo is the most accurate current photo I could find!  Where to begin.  Perhaps with a very classic morning, this MLK day.  You rolled out of bed at 10:30, immediately found Phoebe and said hello to her, and then made a quick Eggs Benedict for yourself before going to play tennis with your dad.  You are a terrific cook and we all benefit from it.  You’re not afraid of complicated things and you do them well.  During the spring of the pandemic you did a lot with breads – baguette, homemade cinnamon rolls, pizza dough.  It was great.

You’re entertaining and hilarious and occasionally stubborn as hell.  You know how to push my buttons better than anyone else on earth.  You are thoughtful and a born debater.  Sometimes, when you talk at the dinner table, your father and I catch each other’s eyes.  You dazzle us.  My father, as good a judge of character as I’ve ever known, described you once as having “sparkle.”  He was quick to cite your natural intelligence.  One of my great regrets is that the two of you didn’t have more time together.  I actually think you have a fair amount in common with him and I know you’d have enjoyed conversations, sails, and projects.  You would have learned from him, and he would in turn have hugely enjoyed you repartee, your opinions, and your willingness to share them.

You are an immensely good sport.  You’ve been at home alone with us for almost four years now, which is probably not your first choice, and you’re both amenable and great company.  One of the true silver linings of the pandemic has been the time as a family, and the greatest joy of that for me was watching you and your sister become even closer than you already were.  You’re very different from each other but really good friends, and it causes me tremendous comfort to know you’ll have each other to lean on as you move into adult life.

You’re a good tennis player and I hope you will play more. You beat your dad for the first time this past weekend!  You love to fish and I look forward to your doing more of it this summer.  You love Phoebe and she loves you.  Left to her own devices she runs into your room and hops onto your red beanbag.  Your academic interests are varied and how you feel about an individual teacher makes a huge difference – over the years you’ve loved Math, and you’ve loved History, and you’ve loved Science.  You’re tremendously impacted by who’s teaching, and we all feel so grateful that we so thoroughly admire and respect the school where you are.

You are one of the funniest people I have ever known.  Your sense of humor is sophisticated and you often say things that make me laugh out loud.  I’ve long held that the truly funny people are also truly smart and you exemplify that.  You do excellent imitations.  The most recent one is Borat (we watched several Sacha Baron Cohen movies over the winter holiday) and it

You are entirely different from me and I admire everything about that.  You go through the world with a light touch – mostly you don’t overreact, and your ability to read and room and know how others are feeling is remarkable.  You are aware of the opinions of others but not paralyzingly so, and are focused on walking your own path.  I can’t wait to watch your life unfold, and know without question that it will contain wonders.

I love you, Whitman Russell.  Then, now, always.