To my baby on her seventh

Dear Hannah,

I don't suppose you have even noticed that your birthday came and went without a letter from me here. What can I say? Such is the life of the youngest child. Time has gotten away from me the last month or so, but you have been ever present in my mind.

You have changed so much in the last year, little sis. You learned to ride your bike without training wheels. You started first grade, and went to school all. day. long, leaving me home by myself for the first time in 10 years. You began to assert your independence in so many ways.

And you began to pick your own clothes.

I have, for the most part, kept my mouth shut about your choices, even when I cringed as you left the house with brightly colored scarves around your neck and mismatched layered tees adorning your slim body. It was not until parent-teacher conference when your young, hip teacher exclaimed her delight at your keen fashion sense, that I began to wonder if I ought to have you picking out my clothes, too.

You've been trying to do that for a long time now anyway.

Hannah, of all the people in our family, you are probably the best sport. You are constantly dragged to baseball games or tae kwan do matches. You are outnumbered when it comes to movie picks, and are frequently forced to endure the war and action movies favored by your brothers. Week after week, and movie after movie, you cheerfully grab a coloring book and open it onto your lap - not wanting to be left out of the fun. It is your happy willingness to join in their games that melts my heart, even though I know you yearn for more girly companions a lot of the time.

The other day I was in the kitchen doing some baking. You had been helping me, and continued to keep me company with your chatter, even when the baking was through. I was washing the dishes, and I looked behind me to see you wiping the bar down with a wet towel. A smile on my face turned to a huge grin when I watched you grab the broom and start sweeping. You did this without any prompt on my part. It was such a big girl thing to do - to notice what needed to be done, and just do it.

I have no doubt this experience will never be repeated by your brothers, however.

All through our cleaning, you talked and talked, never once wanting to be anywhere else but by my side, and for a brief moment, I had a glimpse of what will be.

Of what has become, really.

No longer are you just the baby on the counter waiting to lick the spoon. Suddenly, and without warning, you have became my ally and companion in the kitchen. You have become my friend.

And sweets, I can't think of anything that I want more.

I love you deeper than you will ever know. There's a special place in my heart reserved solely for you.

You, the little baby who was sent to us quite on purpose when we were not looking. Tell me, what did we ever do without you?

I love you forever, little Chica.