Monday, November 30, 2009


Dearest You,

If you weren't going away this year, you'd have a really good holiday party.

You have a really good holiday party every year and every year the first people to arrive help you set up. I have arrived at your house to find boxes of unopened crackers, cheese still in its paper and bags of tiny carrots and nuts in a pile on the counter. To your credit, you usually have a pot of mulled wine going on the stove and the aroma of cinnamon and clove is great company while the assembled mob of the early-to-arrive hustle around the kitchen and set up your party.

One year, you weren't even home. You had gone to get a pedicure, but left the house unlocked.

Someone always takes the job of lining up dozens of tiny tea lights on the built-in ledges of your Craftsman dining room. Someone always slices the salami and puts it on a plate (though now we've all gotten mature enough to call it charcuterie.) Someone takes all the delectable little pastries out of the bakery boxes and lines them carefully on a big white platter. We set out glasses and pour olives from their deli containers into your nice white bowls.

While we get things organized, you put the finishing touches on your outfit. Periodically, you waft in from the bathroom, offering direction; a nudge; an order. You give kisses that leave a stain bright and shiny as holiday ribbon. You always look fabulous. Opulent. In the beginning, there was lots of leg, lots of bosom, but lately, you've taken a more elegant approach. You look like you should have a group of people helping you in the kitchen. You wear this role casually, but comfortably, the way you might toss a fur coat over your shoulders -- more for beauty than for warmth.

And then the party begins. There is no beer (your rule,) but plenty of booze and the food is always good. There is a fire in the fireplace and the with the tea lights finally lit and the overhead lights turned down, your home takes on the kind of glow that is nice to see from the street. Yours is a nice party to walk into. It's close and a little loud. Always warmer than you think it will be and always that lovely spicy wine smell twisting through the scent of Christmas tree branches, perfume and bourbon.

Happy holidays, you, dearest you. Happy travels.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Dearest You,

I got the news of your birth when I was working at the public library in Evanston, Illinois.

"She's here!" My mother said, her excitement vibrating over the phone lines. "She's here!"

You were given a name that makes you automatically sound royal. And so you were with your olive skin and serious eyes.

Because I saw you only on vacations and visits home, you seemed to grow quickly. Moving from mewling cub to sprinting toddler in a blink. I have a photo of you sitting on my lap in the back yard of our grandmother's house. Your legs barely reach the bend of my knee. In another photo, we take the same pose and your legs are longer, slimmer, your baby teeth like seed pearls in your shy smile.

I thought of you as a baby for a long time. I scooped you up in my arms or pulled you into my lap for years. You were a little girl at my wedding with a mouth full of braces and flowers in your hair, but your poise at the microphone as you read a toast hinted at the woman you would become.

Now, nearly ten years later, you are grown. Your olive skin is stretched over strong arms and legs and your brown eyes are wise beyond their years. I look forward to the times that our visits home intersect, to the break in my family life that lines up with your college life.

My kids ask for you, wonder when they'll see you. They love you because though you are now able to buy wine in the grocery store, you are still willing to bounce for hours on the trampoline or behave like a chicken in an impromptu performance at a family barbecue.

You speak French and can take apart and clean a rifle. Your laugh is more of a giggle and because you are just twenty-one, when you bounce on that trampoline nothing on you bounces back. (I try not to hold this against you.) You impress me with your poise, your kindness and your open heart.

With love and excitement for your future.