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To My Baby Girl, Who Will Never Be 13 Going on 14

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Baby Girl, I remember the last time I called you by that name. It wasn’t the last time I saw you or some other unforgettable moment. It was a basic day having a basic interaction. It is so basic that I cannot even remember our conversation or the room where we had it. What I do remember is that you said, “I’m not a baby.” Feeling a bit taken back, I was not sure where your strong feeling was coming from. I have called you this since you were born. Baby Girl. There was a sense of loss felt in hearing those words. A loss that you were growing up and finding your place in this world.

I wondered why now? Did the world teach you a difficult lesson taking away your naivete? Was there bus ridicule or playground bullying? Or was it an act of independence?

At that moment, I assured you that I did not consider you a baby, but I have loved you like this forever. I made a promise not to call you by that name again. I have broken my promise, Baby Girl. I call you that every day when I tell you, I love you.

I think of 13 going on 14. Foreign Land. A foreign land that I have no option to visit. I see other parents travel with their daughters to this foreign land of teenage years, getting lost in it and then found, only to repeat. Their barrier is language, and ours is life. I watch from a distance through a spyglass; I move away quickly. You, Baby Girl, gone at 6, never to be 13 going on 14, are lingering in the shadows, the fog, the air. But I can’t make you materialize.

I didn’t know that it would take seven years to face the demands of your belongings. Your clothes and stuffed animals looking tired, limp and lifeless. No arms to fill the sleeves and dirty hands to smudge up the “most loved dog” of the moment. How is that you, Baby Girl, combustible and a whirlwind, can have belongings that could look so sad and dejected? They have sat ignored for seven years. Denied the love and joy and they received from their owner and neglected by the ones given guardianship. I pick through them. Which is worthy of the protection from aging provided by acid-free paper and boxes? Which holds memories for the guardians so strong to compete for a patch of space in a blanket, pillow or memory board? Which is neglected because of indifference? And which will be discarded with detachment, because feeling at that moment would negate any progress?

I work for you, Baby Girl. I work for your memory. I work for your undeniable place in this world. But does my imagined place look like yours? I know only your actions and words. Too young to articulate your inner world; it is locked away forever in a tiny white casket. I struggle with the unknown and suffer from doubt. I act with what I have. And what I have is far too little.

I write to you and for you. I proceed with acts and deeds to help others. I show grace when I feel none. I enter the unknown when I prefer the comfort of my bed. Seven years of staring at stuff and doing good deeds in your memory, but I cannot make you materialize. I am on vacant land instead of foreign land. There is no 13 going on 14. So I throw up my “I love you, Baby Girl” to the shadows, the fog, the air. I hope you catch it and hear the silent “I’m sorry” that rides on its tail.

Originally published: March 4, 2020
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