Zora Neale Hurston once wrote there are years that ask questions, and years that answer.
This is the latest I have ever written a birthday letter. I say all of them are the hardest to write.
This was the hardest one to write.
A few weeks out from your birthday it hit your dad – like, you could physically see it hit him – that you were starting Kindergarten, and that meant we were crossing some invisible line. From having two small children to two school-aged children. You are the youngest so everything you do is the last first time.
This is the last little kid letter. The last letter before you and your brothers are all K-12 students. I wasn’t particularly ready to write this letter then, but I started, and I’m not particularly ready to finish it now, but I will.
So you turned five. And looking back at your fifth birthday I now know that the ebb of four and flow into five marked a turning point. On the other side of five you are both anxious to grow up a bit and being forced to be more of a responsible kid and less of the baby of the family. Four asked a lot of questions and five is going to answer whether you (or we) want to hear the answers.
For all it’s questions and growing pains four was so, so sweet.
You started off four with a lot of curls. I love these curls. It’s unreasonable how much I love your curls. I wish you didn’t insist on wearing your hair shorter now, but you know how you like things.
Those curls didn’t stick around for long, and it’s been big kid cuts from there on out.
Mere days after you turned four we went to Disney World and Universal Studios. That’s the kind of kicking-off-a-new-year start that’s going to be hard to top.
To tell you the truth, at four, Disney World was a bit much for you. It wore your little butt out.
And you were honestly most impressed by the pool. It’s the thing you remember best.
On the early side of four you still took a lot of naps – and hell hath no fury like a Sammy who skipped one – but as the year wore on, they became less frequent.
Even as five approached, sometimes the naps still won. I can’t believe how much longer you look.
Even though I can still see the baby if your face.
I just love how naps still sneak up on you.
You had a pretty incredible summer, the last summer before you officially started junior kindergarten.
You went to Denver, Colorado. We stayed with Aunt Vicki and Uncle Steve. You loved the little park by their house.
We went to Estes Park and rode a huge horse up into the mountains. You, me, and Moonlight for two hours. You fell asleep for the last twenty minutes.
We went to the Denver Zoo.
We’ll come back to the relationship that is you and Sage in a bit, but you also got to go to his Taekwondo tournament. You were ready to show off his medals.
You visited the continental divide.
You went through a tie phase.
This letter is about to shift in tone for just a sec.
Sammy. I’m your mother. There are certain things you know about me. I leave my shoes all over the house, I zone out everyone when I’m reading. I cuss. I am about to cuss in this letter.
When you were four you busted your god damn head open again and we had to give you butterfly stitches. This time you hurled yourself off a couch head first and into an iron weight.
Please stop hitting your head on things.
You’re lucky your daddy was a medic when he was in the army.
You started junior kindergarten.
And continued the tradition of going to Day’s after school.
I got to come visit you at school a few times and play.
You are also very close with your cousin, Aaron.
Your coat really made your Halloween costume sing.
We got a lot of snow this winter. You are like me when it comes to snow – you want to play in it for about ten minutes then come inside, drink hot cocoa, and admire the beauty from a window in your warm jammies.
On Christmas you fell asleep with your reindeer antlers on, waiting for Santa.
You really rocked the bear hat. You also started taking ukulele lessons after getting one for Christmas.
We had our annual New Years Eve party, and being the extrovert you are, you were in your element. Long after the other kids had dropped one by one, we decided to let you and Grace stay up as long as you wanted. You built things and kicked it until about 3am.
You went to your first UofL game. Go CARDS!
All those things happened, and they were all funny and sweet and sad and scary. Yet there are so many things about you at age four that those moments don’t capture.
Your determination, like teaching yourself to do a handstand.
The great faces you make.
The way your handwriting improved.
Your mad building skills, which only improve each time I write one of these letters.
Of course, you’re learning from the master. This is the kind of thing your pawpaw sets up for you:
Your sweet moves and killer poses.
You are naturally curious about the world. You ask questions far beyond your years. You have an uncanny ability to see things about people and the world around you. You keep us on our toes. Driving home from Chris and Jennie’s one night you out of the blue asked us a series of questions about homelessness.
This was the year you discovered legos. Your brother was more than willing to show you the way of the lego master.
We got a dog. You loved him immediately.
You will talk to anyone. You are an extrovert. There is no such thing as a stranger in the world of Sam. That’s how you made friends with Nick while waiting for your ukulele lesson to start, and he now lets you play his guitars before lessons.
I am happy to report that you still want to spend every waking – and sleeping – hour with Sirius. He is your best friend.
I’ve written this before, how in a world where a lot of people walk or run, you fly. When I close my eyes, that’s how I see you.
Sometimes we butt heads because we are so much alike. Sometimes our arguments devolve into yelling and your dad has to intervene. But no matter how many times we argue or cry there is no one on this earth I love more than you. It is a privilege to be your mother, to watch you grow, and to write another one of these letters, no matter how hard it is to get the words out.
I love you, sweet boy. All the way to Pluto.