July 29th is coming up in three days. I’ve been reflecting a lot on the fact that Natalie would be turning 13 this year—officially a teenager and another milestone we won’t get to share. This summer I’ve run into some other 13 year-olds, the children of friends whose kids have grown up to become awkward, introverted, and lanky teens… all the endearing things a 13 year-old could be. Seeing these kids now—kids who I knew way back when they were toddlers, when Natalie and I would drop off Roslyn as East Side Nursery School—sometimes stops me in my tracks. It’s an odd perception of time because these kids are now going into the eighth grade (!!), but Natalie is and will forever be a little 1½ year-old girl. How is this possible?! The perception of time is so subjective and changes constantly. I look at Roslyn, now heading into her sophomore year and it feels just right. I’ve watched her grow up into the confident, sensitive, and loving young woman she is each and every day—and though sometimes it does feel like time is moving too fast, it also feels absolutely perfect.
I have written about this before—wondering what Natalie would be like. But this year, another milestone birthday, it strikes a bit harder. What would her passion be? Music? Sports? What would be her favorite subjects in school? Would she like math and science? Or maybe art? Or Spanish? Would she follow in her sister’s footsteps and love theater or would she be playing bass in her own punk band? Or maybe it would be something else entirely that I can’t even begin to conjure in my brain. And what would she look like? She had the best giggle, I wonder what her voice and laughter would sound like. I can imagine, but then I just can’t. It’s a strange paradox—and sometimes it just hurts too much to think about it. More than 11 years ago, the universe decided that we wouldn’t ever get to know these things, and Natalie’s life was taken away. We were all robbed of the beauty, joy, and amazing amount of fun she brought to the world. I can only imagine now that she would still be wreaking havoc, only on a bigger scale—doing all of the things a 13 year-old girl should do. It is forever heartbreaking that she can't.
Since 2007, I’ve never been comfortable with the idea of saying “happy birthday” to Natalie, but I am starting to think about it in a new way. It always felt awkward, because the truth is, she is gone and there is nothing happy about that. Instead I would acknowledge her birthday by honoring the day she made her grand entrance into the world and celebrating her beautiful, happy life and all of the love she brought to our lives. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: for all the indescribable pain I have suffered as a result of losing Natalie, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I am so, so, sooooo happy Natalie was born. I love you, sweet girl—soooo much! Happy Birthday.