This one's a tough letter to write because last year was a difficult year for all of us. Last year, when I sat down to write, only four weeks had passed since we stood, staring, at the minuscule casket that held your baby sister. We all grieved hard but we mourned in different ways. You spent the better part of a year breaking into loud, wailing sobs when I least expected them. You, experiencing such a loss at such a tender and formative age, were the embodiment of Ecclesiastes and/or The Byrds.
To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away; A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace. -Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
This was you. One minute laughing, another crying. One minute mourning and the next, dancing. It broke my spirit to watch, knowing I could not fix the heart hurt you endured. But it healed my heart to see you grieving authentic. You didn't care if people watched you cry. You didn't hold back your hysterical sobs. You didn't apologize for laughing or loving. You yelled that it wasn't fair and you told God you were mad and you thanked Him for giving her to us at all. Your six-year-old process for coping was, in all honesty, a gift to us all.
This year, you also lost your beloved best friend, our golden retriever, Beck. One minute he was running happy and the next minute, an unknown tumor on his spleen ruptured. We lost him just a couple hours later. So I did what any rational mom whose kid lost a sister and a dog in the span of five months would do. I ran right out and bought you a puppy.
Tessie, the sweet, hyper, lovable golden puppy is your new best friend. You love to play outside with her, throw her ball, and wander the yard looking for adventure. It was a learning curve for you, never having experienced the exuberance of a retriever pup, but you quickly became inseparable. Of course, she treats you like an equal instead of an owner so you can often be heard howling, "TESS!" as she tries to pull some shenanigan or another over on you.
You're a genius.
Okay, I doubt that you are an actual genius but you're incredibly smart. You read well above grade level, you're in the top spelling group and you ace every test, you excel at math (for which I feel we have to thank your other parents because Dad and I are not so much with the math) and you just seem to learn with ease. The other night, after you finished practicing your spelling words, Dad jokingly told you to spell "disinfect." You knew he was kidding but you replied, "Okay. I can. I can do that one." And then you flawlessly and without much thought at all, printed it perfectly. Kiddo, disinfect is NOT a first grade word.
The problem with this high intelligence is that you are WAY TOO HARD ON YOURSELF. If you don't get a 100% on something, your little heart is just broken. At this point, you hold yourself to a higher standard than we ever would. So far, managing your education has been easy. There's never been a concept that you've struggled with. But managing your own expectations is a nightmare. Matthew, a 99% REALLY IS OKAY.
You ran track over the summer and played flag football in the fall. You're so fast. If you got the football, you were likely to either score or, at least, pick up a lot of yardage. You're signed up to play baseball this spring. We'll see how that goes because, at the moment, you close your eyes and knock down anything that comes flying at your face. But, in general, you're a coordinated guy so once you put it altogether, I'm sure you'll be great at baseball, too. I really believe that you can do whatever you set your mind to.
This was the year that you told us you were getting married. You and Brooklyn have grand plans to run away together and live in a "bush house" that you discovered over the summer at Santee Lakes. You've got it all planned out. You'll put down carpet to help with the ants and you'll fish for your meals. I'm fairly certain the two of your have broken up at least eleven times and gotten back together at least twelve but I'm not overly concerned. I mean, your ultimate plan is a bush house so I'm not putting a lot of stock in your marital judgement at this point in time. Still, it's been an absolutely hilarious ride for Brooklyn's mom and me.
You're still so funny that you make me laugh on a daily basis. Just last week, I opened your curtains to wake you up for school and you threw your blanket over your head and moaned, "Oh no! Not this again!" Yes, son. This. Again. For the rest of your life. You sure do love your sleep though and your teenage years are bound to be a challenge for us. And that whole lifetime in the workforce thing doesn't bode well for you either. At least you'll keep making me laugh while I keep waking you up.
You love church, your brother, sports, playing in the yard with friends, any substance that qualifies as food, spending time with your family, vacations, reading books, watching television, laughing, dance parties, listening to music, and playing with lightsabers.
We love your heart, your smile, your beautiful face and everything that you are. Happy 7th Birthday, Little Buddy.