Warning: This post has several blackmail-worthy photos, particularly for someone who is turning 18 and has an image to uphold.
Happy 18th birthday Geneva Elise Cook.
I am so proud of you and I love you so deeply, not just because I’m your mom.
On May 21, 1997, you made your grand entrance into the world at 4:58 a.m., in Mercy Hospital in Chicago. I was a scared, conflicted young woman of 24 going on 25. I always tease you with stories about how I remember the day you were born…the tough labor… the surprise and astonishment at knowing how small you were…so small that I nicknamed you “Peanut.” You were under 7 lbs…but I gained nearly 100 lbs!
Of course that nickname didn’t hold, because you plumped up so beautifully. You were like a little bundle of cuddly love, and I couldn’t believe that this gift was all for me. I think about this all of the time. More than you probably care to know.
Our relationship as mother and daughter has been challenged by distance and by very tough circumstances. But our bond has transcended time and space and I’m so grateful for that. You anchor me, and remind me time and time again of why life matters, and why it is so necessary to keep going and not give up and keep one arm and hand above water because drowning is not a option.
Your fierce independence and self-awareness and understanding of the world leaves me in awe. I’ve grown to have deep and abiding respect for you and I can’t wait to see what you accomplish over the next four years. You have loved and lost and decided and stood firm and picked battles that women twice or three times your age would not even dream of. The world of today may not be ready, but the world of tomorrow will be a much better place because I know that you will be one of its most vocal and transformative leaders.
I’ve watched you grow from a cute, gangly little girl into a beautiful, opinionated, thoughtful and sensitive young woman. You’re fearless, way more fearless than I was at 18. You know what you want, and how you plan on going after your goals. I wish I had more to give you, but sometimes at night, when I lay awake and unable to sleep, I realize that I’ve given you all that I could and more. Those gifts that I shared with you, conversations I had with you before you entered the world, are all part of your arsenal, your toolbox. I’m still learning, and whatever I learn, I plan to share with you. I look forward to us continuing to walk this journey together.
Tomorrow, you will be graduating from high school and taking your place in the world as the young, beautiful, smart and ambitions woman you have grown up to become. I am so proud to know that you will be enrolling in university this fall to pursue your dreams to become an artist and graphic designer. I can’t wait to see how this chapter of your life turns out. And no matter what, I am with you every step of the way…the way we choose it, not the way other people think it should be.
I love you so much, Neva.
Happy 18th birthday.