Several times over the past year, I sat down and wrote a letter to Baby A, or Annabelle. Annabelle is the first born of my best friend, Danielle. We go way back, Danielle and I. We went to middle school and high school together, though she is a class ahead of me.
When Danielle and her awesome husband Eric first told me they were going to be having a baby, I was stoked for them. Danielle is a teacher and I’d seen her “mom nature” shine through her time and time again during our friendship. I knew she would make a terrific Mother and I was so excited to get to meet that little nugget.
I also seriously considered moving to St. Paul, Minnesota. I had a hard time thinking that Danielle’s children [flash forward: there are now TWO little princesses at Danielle and Eric's palace!] wouldn’t really understand who I was, or perhaps subsequently, how much I loved and cared for them with me being so far away. I even remember telling Danielle on the phone one evening that St. Paul was in my 5-year plan. [forgive me, old friend, for I may have spoken prematurely on that front.]
Myself and Danielle, July 2009 Photo by Jenna Cole
see more photos from the shoot here
Over the past year, as I’ve written each letter to Annabelle [who I will always call Baby A, to some extent or another, though she will turn two this March] I’ve thought a lot about what I can offer her from so far away, rather than what I can’t.
After all, I’ve lived far away from the majority of my extended family since middle school, when we moved to the very place I started my friendship with Annabelle and Josephine’s Mom. I’ve also lived only a flight away from my parents and both of my siblings for what’s going on four years now. If anyone knows how to love from a distance, it’s me.
Perhaps that is the very reason I started writing letters to Annabelle in the first place. I wanted to give her the special, unique sort of relationship that distance creates. Will it be exactly how my relationships with my own family members spread out across the country? Of course not! But, with my hope of continuing these letters all her life, I am offering her another understanding of unconditional love and an experience of the personal written word, which is often forgotten about in this vast world of technology.
2 month old Baby A and myself, May 2010
My letters are nothing fancy. No scrolling pen and fancy stationary. A lot of the time, they are written from a legal pad I also use to make To-Do lists. Most of them include a little story or tidbit of when “your Mommy and I” did this, that, or the other thing. Often she is reminded to be good for her parents, and I always seal each envelope with a kiss.
I once wrote Annabelle a list [after all, it's my favorite form of writing!] titled “What I Hope for You.” It’s something I’ve kept in my journal, as well, because I plan to add to it as she continues to grow and learn, facing new challenges the world throws her way. I’d like to say I hope for calm waters, easy falls, and only sweetness for her life, but not only do I know no such world exists, but also, honestly, I don’t want such things for Danielle’s girls. Instead I hope for grace under pressure and an open mind, ready for gained knowledge and understanding in each rough day they stumble through. And I hope the same for you.
What I Hope for You, Annabelle:
originally written July 11, 2011
+ I hope you have more sunny days than rainy days – but also that you find all there is to love in rain and puddles and gray skies and even storms. Because there is a lot to love in there, too.
+ I hope one day, you ask your mother if you were named after Belle in Beauty and the Beast.
+ I hope you open yourself to all the great music from decades past long before your peers. [you can always ask me for suggestions.]
+ I hope you grow up thanking your parents every day. And saying “I love you.”
+ I hope you like vegetables.
+ I hope you dance every single day.
+ I hope you will continue to love Bucky Badger for the rest of your life.
+ I hope you find your passion and chase it. I hope you remain entangled in your passions and never allow anyone to unravel you from them. They are yours forever.
+ I hope you face the world with curious eyes, a giving heart, a sense of adventure and also the desire to make safest decisions when necessary.
+ I hope you find a friend to lead you, who you look up to and admire the way I had your Mom. And that she/he treats you with the same kindness as your Mom did for me.