Kami, I know that it's not your birthday until tomorrow...really I do. (hehe) But I wanted to write you now before I'm swallowed up into the weekend of church and such.
Your surprise birthday party last night was a joy for me. As the day unfolded and every unsuspected surprise unfurled like the peddles of a flower, I felt caught up in the excitement of it all. Seeing your face react in shock to Uncle Tim showing up to your field trip to Detroit was priceless. Hearing from Megan how overjoyed you were getting to have a pedicure with her after you returned home brings a smile to my face even as I type this. Seeing the car pull into the driveway and watching you walk toward the front porch made my heart beat fast. When you opened the door and we handed you and Megan your iced Starbucks Frappuchinos, your faced screamed: "What in the world is this about?" I loved it.
You still thought you were just dropping by for mom to do a simple photo shoot with you and Megan...little did you know that she had stayed up late the night before decorating the basement into party central and that all your friends were packed down there ready to blow your mind and pounce on you. When we told you that we wanted to show you something mom made for you downstairs, you were clueless, yet curious.
As you got to the bottom of the stairs and rounded the corner, I can't tell you how thrilling it was to see your friends explode out from behind the curtains with streamers and noisemakers and smiles and shouts of "Surprise" and "Happy Birthday, Kami!" The noise level was at a fever pitch and when you covered your face and stood stunned with tears pouring down your face, my own eyes welled up with tears of pure happiness. It hit me in that moment that as you get older and we become less central and you become less dependent, there is a rich enjoyment in seeing you being celebrated by a greater cloud of witnesses! To hear and see that merriment was so very precious to me. To watch your friends wrap themselves around you and for you to move toward the cocoon of their community was beautiful beyond words. I even saw a couple of them crying as they watched you cry...it was like a butterfly effect. We were made for friendship.
As you sat down with your friends, your mom had been working hard all day preparing a feast for you and had the wonderful idea of having Tay and two of her friends be the servers for the evening, all decked out in their little aprons. As we were in the kitchen upstairs handing plates to them to take down to you, the laughter and storytelling coming from the basement again filled me with such joy. Your joy is my joy and I knew you were having the time of your life! That's all that matters to me in that moment...not so much that I'm right there with you anymore, but that I get to soak this in from a distance...feeding it and setting it up to be all that it can be "for" you. It made me feel what God must feel as he shares us with this world and all our loved ones here--no competition, just joy in sharing the gift and gifts of life.
Watching you finish dinner and leave with your friends to go outside with those balloons for a photo shoot (and what a gorgeous night it was for a photo shoot) was priceless. You were all dressed up in beautiful summer dresses and it looked as if you would float away like the movie "Up". haha. I know those pictures will be something you hold on to forever...the night was perfect for capturing photography. And you were stunning...the center of attention.
As you came inside and changed into your bathing suits and all 9 of you crammed into the hot tub, water spilling over the top as if too many ice cubes where put in a glass of sweet tea, I listened again to the mirth of your shotgun giggles and reenactments of memories and harmless joking amongst each other. I was way down at the fire pit getting it ready for you, but from a distance it appeared that you were having a blast, just a bunch of girls making the most of the moment! My joy knew no bounds and I thought of how beautiful it was to see you having so much fun.
As the night came to a close and you changed and came down to the fire, I watched you walk step by step. A young woman now, as captivating as you are confident. I marveled at the speed of life and how quickly one transforms from a little girl into a young lady. Marvelous to sit squarely in the moment and witness all this as you took your seat in the fire's circle.
As your friends left one by one and we talked about the day's conspiracy from your perspective and from ours, it was so satisfying to recount the hours of the day. My favorite thing I heard you say as you came upstairs to sit next to me on the couch: "Dad, this was the best day of my life! I love surprises!" I can safely say that it was one of the best days of my life being able to watch you have the best day of your life. To sit back and take pure joy in your happiness. To watch your spirit filled with wild wonder. To hear you laugh with friends. To see your face glow with gratitude. To see what it looks like when you are completely free. This is the joy of a daddy's heart.
So as the weekend fades (and it will), I hope the moments you experience in the year of your 16th birthday will be etched into your memory forever. Never forget how much your mother and I love you--how much your sisters and brothers love you. We will be cheering you on from a distance your whole life long, and we are a breath away should you need us to come to your aid. You are our crown, our joy, our princess.
Happy Birthday, my beautiful Kami Rose.