Last night, as I do most nights, I walked down the hall to my teenage daughter Melissa's bedroom, in preparation for her daily hug and kiss goodnight.
This bedtime ritual has become, at times, the best part of my day. For it is during these moments, as Melissa lies comfortably cuddled under the covers, that she decides to open the door, ever so slightly, and let me into her world. I may get the chance to soothe her worries over homework and tests, or merely discuss the hum drum topic of weekend plans. She may share the latest antics of both friends and foes, fret about balancing her hectic schedule, or describe the songs she has planned for her band practices.
I listen to each topic, give support and wisdom when asked, and relish in the wonderful, albeit brief opportunity to bond with my baby.
With the exception of last night.
I walked into her room only to be greeted by an empty bed. With a pang I remembered that my daughter and I were temporarily separated by hundreds of miles. She had spent a week in North Carolina with her cousins and grandparents, a major first in her young life! Of course, we had visited our family many times, but never had Melissa traveled south without the safety of mom and dad by her side.
Tomorrow my "baby" will turn 16, certainly old enough to travel alone.
But will she ever be old enough for me to let her go?
As Melissa's birthday approaches each year, I am drawn to the dozens of photo albums that gather dust on our living room book shelf. Pages and pages of her sweet smiling face stare back at me as I progress from photos of the newborn who entered my life on July 1, 1997, to the beautiful young lady she has become today.
During Melissa's early years, I made a habit of writing her monthly letters, with the hope that someday, when she became old enough to appreciate and understand, she'd go back and read my words to fully appreciate how much joy she brings to my life.
The following is an excerpt from one such letter, written when Melissa had reached her 18-month milestone.
"You've become quite attached to me, and I affectionately call you my ball and chain. I can't leave the room without you getting upset. When I go to the bathroom, you pound on the door. Even when I am doing the dishes, you cling to my legs. But that's ok, I love the attention."
All these years later, I still love the attention........even though it comes far less often. For at 16, other priorities beg for her time. Yet, during those quiet moments when we are alone, at the end of a long day when slumber beckons, I am still the lucky recipient of Melissa's affection.
Melissa, I may have to accept that you are growing older, spreading your wings and becoming more and more independent with each passing day. But my baby, I'll never let you go.
Happy 16th birthday my dear, sweet, beautiful, wonderful, talented daughter.
|Me with my beautiful "Sweet 16" Happy Birthday Melissa!
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