To Jennie, on her 19th birthday:
Girl, you are almost through with your freshman year in college, and what a year it has been. You are living away from home and meeting new people and finding out what life is like outside of your hometown. Occasionally you are learning that you know zero about the world, and even less about your place in it. Keep reminding yourself daily that you are clueless. Maybe it will keep you from telling that English professor that you don’t need his required English class. That cranky old man will make you a much better writer one day. So shut your mouth and listen to him.
In fact, you will eat a lot of your words that you speak as a 19-year old. So the less said this year, the better. But keep your chin up, girl. It gets awesome. Just you wait. People are being nice to you today, and your dorm door is decorated, and maybe a cute boy will say hi to you.
To Jennie, on her 29th birthday:
You are out on the town with your posse. You have flirted your way past all cover charges. The word of the night is “shots!” and you are hanging in there like a pro. Your hair is curly, and it’s staying curly. You feel skinny in that outfit. You can’t stop grinning. Your favorite cover band is playing all of your favorite songs. They even bring you up on stage and serenade you. Everyone is hugging you and wishing you Happy Birthday, and you love the world. You feel like a superstar. Best. Birthday. Ever.
Sometimes, there isn’t much to grin about. And sometimes, your hair won’t curl at all. You won’t always be the superstar. On those days, your real friends still love you. And that’s a much better birthday gift than a couple of shots. But the memory of this evening, and how happy you were, will make you smile for the rest of your life.
To Jennie, on her 39th birthday:
If you fall asleep on the couch tonight, you can always celebrate 39 again next year.