I’ve tried to write this several times, and even now, I’m a couple of days late. This is your birthday note. It’s a lot harder for a dad to write a birthday note for his daughter than you’d think, because he wants it to be perfect. Your mom asked all your closest grown-up friends and relatives who came to your birthday party today to write birthday notes to you describing their favorite memories of your first year. There are of course so many wonderful things you’ve done over the past year (and before that, even) that I couldn’t even pretend to pick one. My favorites for the moment are how you’ve started kissing me every once in a while (though your baby doll is apparently more kissable — must be the lack of stubble), how, when I’m carrying you around, you’ll point to something (usually a light switch) and say “deh,” which is your rendition of “there,” which expands to “take me over there, daddy,” and how your quirky sense of humor is developing (for example, yesterday, you started taking a breath in and out very heavily, and when I copied you, you just cracked up and kept doing the funny breathing thing to prompt me to copy you). These are the sorts of things that, if I had no other thing to live for or care about, would make my life the most worthwhile and happiest sort of life. Put simply, it’s just very very fun to watch you growing up.
A couple of years ago, a friend of mine had a baby, and she at some point told me that the baby was the best thing she and her husband had ever done. She was a lawyer helping people out of bad situations (not a nasty greedy corporate lawyer or an ambulance chaser), so for her to say that her baby was the best thing she had ever done was a pretty good thing. At the time, I don’t think what she said really clicked with me. Babies were great, I thought, but after all, they’re pretty darned easy to make if you’re well-equipped to make them, so to call a baby the best thing you’d ever done seemed like a bit of exaggeration. I don’t think it’s possible to understand how great a child is until you have one. I hadn’t talked to that friend until just the other day since the time she told me about her baby’s being the best thing she had done, and I’m happy to report that I can now agree with her. I understand now.
I’ve done some pretty neat things. When I was a kid, I was (with your grandmom) very much into recycling because it seemed like a good idea to try to make better use of natural resources. At my various jobs, I’ve written some neat programs that helped people. One project I worked on actually helped to save lives in Tennessee, or so the letter of commendation I got said. I’ve done plenty of other cool stuff. And so has your mom. Before we had you, she was a teacher, and teachers are one of our most important and under-appreciated resources. And she was good at it, I could tell, and I was proud of her. She helped shape the minds of some very bright kids, some of whom could go on to do very great things. Your mom and I aren’t the best people in the world, and we haven’t done the greatest things in the world, but we’re not exactly chopped liver with respect to doing good things and having an appreciation for the genuinely good. So for you to be the best thing we’ve ever done or produced is a pretty good thing, and she and I agree that you’re our crowning achievement.
Since you were very young, there’s been something special about you, a glow or shimmer of sorts, a sparkle and a brightness in your eyes. I’m sure all parents see this in their children, but others also seem to see it in you, so I don’t think we should chalk what I’m saying up to a father’s blind love. You’re the best little person I know. You’re my favorite person, and that’s saying a lot, because there are a number of people I love and respect very much. The last year of my life has been dotted with the most exuberant, happy, boyish moments I can ever remember having had, and you’re responsible for most of those moments. Thanks for that, Lou, and happy birthday to you.