Eleven days ago, on July 15th, I missed posting about your birthday. I’d like to blame technical difficulties (I did forget to bring my laptop to Nana & Pappy’s cottage), but the truth is that four days after arriving in the U.S. I was just too overwhelmed to write a coherent sentence. A lot happened this month. That does not, however, mean we didn’t celebrate your birthday as hard as ever, and it does not mean you don’t get a birthday post (I haven’t missed one in years!), but it DOES mean that, like a lot of things right now, we had to adjust our schedules and expectations a bit.
So, eleven days later, let me wish you the happiest of 10th birthdays. I know it was a good one because at one point in the late afternoon, in between you opening presents, spending most of the day swimming and kayaking in the pond, playing wiffle ball with your cousins, and eating a cupcake the size of your head, I leaned over and hugged you and said I hoped your birthday was fun and you gasped and said, “I forgot it WAS my birthday! I was too busy to think about it!”. Pretty much that’s how birthdays should always be.
This past year was a strange one for you and for all of us. We knew it was the end of an era – the final year in the grand adventure – so we talked a lot about what we’d done during our time in Europe, what we’d miss when we left, what we were looking forward to when we got back to America, and how it was the “last time” we’d do X, Y, and Z. Although our focus was often on the past and the future, you managed to concentrate on the present and you made your last year in England your best year yet. You absolutely killed it.
You got the best grades you’ve ever gotten, hands down, and made a concerted effort to overcome your reserved tendencies and speak up more in school. I know that’s difficult for you and it makes you uncomfortable, but you did it anyway and your effort marks reflected that; I’m so proud of you for reaching beyond your comfort zone. You worked harder and more diligently than I have ever seen you work, and your attention to detail was better than it’s ever been before. I know your teacher made a huge difference – he helped your Dad and I understand the you that we don’t see in school all day and he helped you be the best possible version of that kid and we owe him a debt of gratitude for that.
You absolutely thrived on the football pitch/soccer field where you played up a level alongside kids that were often two years older (and bigger) than you. You were never intimidated at all, and your natural speed and athleticism and inherent understanding of sports strategy made up for your lack of size. You made it clear that you belonged on that team of older boys and your dad and I were so proud to watch you play and grow as an athlete.
You did the same on the cross-country trail, running with older kids and making it clear that you belonged right there with them. I was as excited as I’ve ever been watching a sporting event at your cross-country relay this past spring when you came first in your leg — I screamed and jumped up and down and generally acted like a crazy person as you helped your team win a medal. Who knew cross-country could be so much fun?!?!
You continued to make us all laugh with your sophisticated palate and ability to eat like a grown man on pretty much every trip we took – from consuming your weight in wiener schnitzel in Austria and Germany to inhaling half the seafood in Spain on our Barcelona trip. We’ve come to accept that you’re never, ever ordering off the kids’ menu again. I don’t understand how you’re as skinny as you are when you eat more calories in a given day than I do, but man you are skin and bones and ridiculously strong little muscles and that’s it.
You made such great friends in England and I was so glad to see you have your OWN little group instead of tagging along with Gabe’s friend like you mostly had in Virginia. I really hope you keep in touch with them all (I think you will) and I hope that you make as good a group of friends here in Massachusetts when school starts this fall.
And, as you always have, you continued to impress me this year with your willingness and openness to try new things, see new places, and really think about how those experiences fit into your life and the world you know. You make great observations on our trips: comparing and contrasting the canals in Venice to those in Bruges and Amsterdam, pointing out the similarities and differences between Menorca and Greece, and proving to your dad and I that you really were taking it all in on these million trips and that it was changing you in such a positive way. We love hearing you talk about what you’ve seen and what you hope to see in the future.
So now, as you hit double digits, I just want you to know how very, very proud I am of the hard work you’ve put in over the last year, how much I’ve enjoyed watching you grow and change and mature, and how very much I love the boy you are and the person I see you becoming. You’re a complex guy, and it’s so much fun to see all the different little sides of you in different situations. Happy birthday, my bug (eleven days late). I love you to the moon and back.