“To my daughter on her first birthday:”

Dear Zooey,

You turned one year old today, or, at least, we celebrated that milestone, today being a Saturday and your actual birthday being on a Tuesday. Before you get annoyed by the lack of pomp and circumstance, please recall that you were ten days late in arriving, and that this is unacceptable behavior for a Gudgel. No matter — you came at the perfect time, and yesterday brought back all kinds of wonderful memories. 

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Your mother’s week was more or less dominated by her obsession with planning the perfect party. She made you an amazing cake and, against my wishes, planned a zoo-themed party, a pun I’d prefer not to repeat in the future unless you yourself seem to enjoy it. Names are sacred things. I was little help to your momma this week, spending a few days very sick in bed, but that didn’t seem to matter to her, at least to from a party-planning standpoint. She made the whole house perfect, and hung up 51 pictures of you, one from every week of your life, all around the living and dining rooms. It was pretty spectacular. She even ordered you a special birthday outfit for the day. When guests finally arrived, I heard comments about “Martha Stewart” that would have made your mother proud. She’s a really amazing mom, and I hope you always remember that. 

After the guests arrived, you ate your cake. It was a lot of fun to watch you do it. I can’t promise these pictures won’t resurface when you graduate, get married, sneak in after curfew, etc. 

You were also presented with one of my old toys this weekend, by your grandparents, and you helped your brother learn to share. Later on, more gifts were opened (mostly by your mother and I). Everyone gave you things you’ll use — blankets, clothing, a soccer ball. I look forward to seeing you kick it. 

In the end, with only a few people left, you did your first “cheers”. Titus was excited that you learned to do it. The wine we toasted you with was forgettable (don’t complain — you had Dom Perignon on your birthday a year ago), but it filled our glasses so that we could raise them to you, and that was all that really mattered. 

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Dear daughter: On your first birthday, I just wanted to share a few memories with you, and to let you know how desperately I love you. I can’t believe it has been a year already. Time seems to move faster with you in it, and life is certainly more full for the part you play. Your mother and I love you more than you can ever fully know, and I can’t wait to see who you become. Please don’t grow up too fast. Please.

Cheers to you on your first birthday,

Dad

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