Each year I write a birthday letter for my children. It is a way to track and record all the important moments in their lives, our lives. They have become a way to recall who they were and who they are becoming. One day I hope the letters help them to remember their childhood years. They started with the birth of my first. I wrote down the whole experience of carrying him for nine months and laboring for twenty hours. This first letter was the longest. And each year the birthday letters continued. But there was another reason for these letters, for this need to record the best and worst moments, to capture the moments of childhood.
My own mother died when I was young. She lived across the country and we never got to know each other. My mother sent letters and gifts and years later I still value them. They are a record of who she was and how much she loved her children. And while I am so thankful to have them, in some ways, they make me sad as well. I have no record of my childhood. What I have, are memories that fade a bit more with each passing decade. More importantly, I have no memories of my mother or my time with her because she left when I was very young.
I know as a mother now that I want to save these moments, these memories of their childhood and our time together because they can't do it for themselves. As they grow older, they will have these letters and will be able to look back at who they were at any given point in their lives. The letters will become a reminder, and guage, of how far they have come. They will recount the lives we lived together.
So every year I take some time and put these things into a letter. I remember the milestones, the growth spurts, the firsts and the seconds, the favorites, and the harships. I pour the emotions and stories of a whole year onto the page. I write them in ink instead of typing them out because it seems more personal and in some ways more permanent. They are handwritten and signed with love.
When they leave for college, I plan to take all the collected letters and give them to my children. Each year built upon the preceding one, each milestone a precursor of what's to come. I hope they will look back on adult birthdays, or any time when they need the comforts of home and the simplicity of childhood, and remember they have a mother and a family who loves them. They are my lifelong, collective birthday gift to my children and one I wished I could have received myself.