My dear Nicole
Today is your birthday. I can’t believe you’re nine already. What a grown-up girl you are!

Somewhere in Africa, I’m missing you like crazy right now. Judging by the schedule I looked at before I left, I should be in Tanzania by now – somewhere near Arusha. You can look it up on the map on the wall, put your finger on the spot, and say a little prayer for Mommy.

Nine years ago today you made me a Mommy. It wasn’t easy bringing you into this world. You were a little stubborn coming out – you were flipped over the wrong way inside me and, after I tried for hours to get you out, the doctor had to get in there and yank you out. But all that effort was worth it in the end.

Your daddy was SO excited when you came out. I’ll never forget the look on his face when he first saw you (you probably know the look I’m talking about – when he gets really happy about something, and it makes him a little silly). You made us both feel very proud and very lucky. Not everyone gets to be mommy or daddy to such a beautiful girl. When you were born, you had quite a bit of hair on your head, and for the first couple of months, it stood straight up! (Grandma told me mine did the same thing when I was little.) A lot of people commented on your hair because not only did it stand up, it had a couple of shades in it – like you’d streaked it.

From a really young age, you were kind to your Mommy and Daddy. You started sleeping through the night really early, so we could get enough sleep. That helped make us a little less grumpy. When you were really little, I called you Squeaker, because you made little squeaky sounds when you wanted attention.

You weren’t very old yet when I realized there was something very special about you. There was something about the way you looked at things and tried to figure them out that always made you seem older than your age. You still have that. You’ve always tried to figure out everything around you. When we’d go for walks when you were little, you wouldn’t stop asking questions. “Who’s that man? Where’s he going? Why is he going there? Does he have a Mommy? Why isn’t he at home? Is that his dog?” “Why” was one of your favourite words. I think it still is.

I remember when Daddy’s Mémère died and we’d told you she’d gone to heaven. You were only about 3 or 4 years old. We were driving home from Ile des Chênes and you were looking up at the moon. “Mommy,” you asked, “who moves the moon?” “God does,” I said. “Well then, what does Mémère do while God is moving the moon?” I think you were concerned that Mémère might be lonely if God wasn’t in heaven with her. You’re often concerned about other people and I like that about you. You want to know that people are safe and happy and comfortable. I still see it in the way you watch over Maddie. The other day you grabbed her when she was about to walk out into a parking lot. I know I can trust you to make sure she is safe.

Another thing I’ve always loved about you is how much you sing. No matter what you’re doing, it seems like you almost always have a song on your lips. I love that! I remember when you were pretty little – probably only 2 or 3 – I took you on a bike ride on the bike seat at the back of my bike. As we rode, you were singing at the top of your lungs “How do I live without you?” People walking by were smiling – it made them happy to see a little girl like you who loved to sing. When you were a little older – probably about 4 – you used to sing “Man, I feel like a woman.” It was very cute.

You still make people happy when you sing. I watched you sing a Hillary Duff song the other day and I smiled all the way through it. You knew EVERY word. Your voice is so beautiful. I hope you always sing. I hope you always dance, too. You’ve got great rhythm and music really seems to move you in a special way. Hang onto that.

You’re a smart girl. It blows me away sometimes how much you know and understand. Your brain never seems to stop working. You notice a lot of things that other people miss, and when you see or hear something you don’t understand, you almost always ask me or Daddy a question about it. It’s important to you that you figure it out. Sometimes the questions don’t come for a few hours or even a few days, but they always come. That’s a really good way to live. Keep trying to figure out the world. Stay interested. Keep noticing things that other people don’t always notice. Don’t let it worry you, just let it keep you interested.

There are a lot of other things I love about you. Here are a few more:
1. You have a great sense of style. I love to see you dressed in funky clothes. Sometimes, when we’re in a big room full of people, I look across the room at you, notice how good you look, and think “Wow! She looks good! I’m glad she’s my daughter!”

2. I like to laugh with you. When we get silly together, it makes me think I’ll always want to hang around with you. Sometimes you and your sister like to tickle me so much I laugh myself silly. It’s kinda fun.

3. You have an artistic streak in you. You gave me a picture recently that I hung on my office wall and I LOVE it! It’s fun and colourful and whimsical. I like the swirls and the splashes of colour. It’s very creative and what I really like about it is that it’s from your imagination. You didn’t just draw a flower that’s supposed to look like a flower – you drew one that’s fun and funky. I hope you always draw and paint me fun pictures. They could hang in an art gallery some day!

4. You sure know a lot about celebrities and movies and TV shows and stuff like that. When we were at Daddy’s family Christmas a few months ago, I was proud to play Scattagories with you. You knew lots of answers that other people in our group didn’t know and they were quite impressed with your knowledge.

5. I can trust you. You’ve always been very trustworthy. You tell me the truth, even when it’s hard to do sometimes. You try really hard to keep your promises and when you make a mistake, I can tell how badly it makes you feel. When I tell you not to do something, I’m pretty sure you’ll do your best not to do it. Like when I tell you how far you can go on your bicycle – you never go further than I ask you to, and that makes me happy because I know I don’t have to worry about you.

6. You have a great memory. Often, when I’m afraid I’ll forget something (like when we’re going shopping and Daddy wants us to pick up something) I ask you to help me remember because I’m pretty sure you will.

I love you, my dear Nicole. You make me a very happy Mom. You brought a special light into our lives and we’ve never been the same since then. I miss you and I can’t wait to be with you again.

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