To Harper on Her Seventh Birthday

Dear Harper,

This morning when you wake up, you ask me to feel your legs to see if they have changed overnight. “Do I feel longer or older?” you ask.

“I think so,” I tell you, “Do you feel older?”

“No,” you say. “I feel the same.”

I tickle you, and you start crawling around like a baby, sucking your thumb, and saying, “This is how I was seven years ago.”

“No,” I tell you, “You just cried when you were born.”

“Tell me the story of when you said my name,” you say.

It’s a story that we both love, and I tell it to you often, but always on your Birthday because the story that you’re talking about happened on the day you were born.

And so, I tell you the story of your birth, and how when you entered the world you cried and screamed as loud as you could… And the nurse took you to the corner of the room before I held you, so that a doctor could check you and the nurses could clean you. I could hear you crying, and your cry didn’t sound so much like a cry as it did the sound of a little cat.. And I was thinking about cats when they brought you over to me and held you against my chest, as I couldn’t hold you, because I was strapped down to an operating table… But they pressed your face into my face, and you yelled and screamed right into my face.

“Hi, Harper,” I said to you over the sound of your cries.

And like that…  When I said your name, your screaming stopped.

“She knows your voice,” the nurse told me.

And the nurse held you there, in the stillness for a few moments. You looked in my direction, but I knew you couldn’t see me. Your eyes weren’t developed and I was only a shadow speaking out of the darkness.

“What a pretty girl,” I said to you then.  The sound of my voice was a compass to you, a lighthouse in a world that was strange and new.  “What a pretty girl.  Your name is Harper.”

You were quiet, and I could see your chest rising quickly, your tiny heart nervous, but safe inside the sound of my voice.

When they took you away, you started to cry again, and I lay there in silence as the doctor quietly put me back together.

I knew I had been part of something deeply profound. And I thought then, under the silent hum of the lights and the sterile white of the room of all the times I had tried to pinpoint the “best” moment of my life… And how I had never been able to equate one single moment as being the “best”… But in that short moment between the two of us… There it was.

Now… If anyone asks me, what the best moment of my life is… There is no hesitation… No cataloguing of loves lost or won, of prizes gained… Of rewards monetary or otherwise… The best moment of my life has been narrowed down to a minute in the operating room on September 30th, 2007, just after 10:50 AM when the sound of my voice alone was enough to calm your fear.

“I love that story,” you tell me, as I run my fingers through your fingers.

Your hands are almost half the size of my hands now.  In seven more years, they will probably be the same size.

“Do you remember anything about that day?”  I ask you.

“No,” you tell me.

“What do you think the best moment of your life is?” I ask you.

“This one right now,” you answer.

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