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Dear Vera: A Letter for Your Third Birthday

Dear Vera,

I’m writing this letter a few days before your third birthday. I want to write it now in case the baby comes soon and life gets too crazy to write you a proper birthday letter. Yesterday the doctor said she thinks it will come this week, and it seems you really might just get a sibling for your birthday.

I’ve been laying down with you each night and holding you close until you fall asleep. It’s not what we usually do — rather your routine consists of story-time and kisses and hugs, and then your mom and dad retreating to the living room while you yell all manner of excuses about why you don’t want to go to sleep for at least twenty minutes until you finally conk out mid-sentence. But lately I can’t help snuggling with you until you fall asleep in my arms, your breathing deep and soft, your little body warm against mine. I can feel this time between us running out and I want to savor every drop of it. By this time next week we’ll have another little body between us and everything will be different.

I can’t believe you’re turning three. These last years with you have been some of the deepest and most love-filled of my entire life. They’ve been utterly filled with chaos and hardship and frustration and fear too, but overall, they have contained this oceanic sense of love. You have filled me up like I’ve never been filled before, kiddo. You’ve ripped me open and mended me back up, creating a woman both stripped bare of herself and more authentic than ever before.

That’s my birthday wish for you, sweet child. That you know this kind of love in your life. I know you know it now — so many of us do in childhood, but somehow it fades and must be recreated and found all over again as an adult. You’ll be shocked by what gets left behind as you grow older, and all that you must do to find yourself and heal your heart again as you move forward into life. My wish though, is that you never waver on how much your father and I love you. Even if it’s the kind of knowing that’s so deep it’s practically unknown. No matter what happens, no matter how far any of us travel in our lives, I wish for you to feel endlessly buoyed by the love we have for you.

In this last year you have become more you than ever before. We celebrated your second birthday days after arriving in California, amidst friends and palm trees and a ridiculous mermaid cake that I made. Over the last twelve months you have grown immeasurably. Your limbs are bronze from the sun, your hair golden, the beach your familiar haven. You have very serious opinions, your mother’s rebellious streak and your father’s sense of humor. You sleep in a real bed, go to school, use the toilet and insist on dressing yourself in the most fantastic combinations of dresses and accessories. You have a best friend (Zoe) and even a crush (Leo). You like to water the plants, love being in charge of our cat Foster (re: dressing him in tutus), have recently begun washing the dishes (you’re not very good), and you refuse to eat any vegetables.

You charm us and infuriate us on an hourly basis, often within the same ten minutes. In the last year I have laughed more often than any other year in my adult life, and it’s because of you.

I am so, so proud of you, kitten. Whenever I tell you this, you place your hand on my cheek and whisper that you’re proud of me too, and you should know that there hasn’t been anyone since my parents died who can tell me that, and make it feel as meaningful as you do.

Thank you for these last three years. I look forward to decades more, to watching you grow and change and become the fierce, young woman you are already so intent on becoming. You simply astonish me.

Happy birthday, Veronica.





  1. So lovely. Someone just asked me something and I had to answer them while staring straight ahead at the computer screen, because if I’d turned my head to talk to them, they would have seen the tears in my eyes.

    Comment by Nothing But Bonfires on June 6, 2012 at 10:33 am

  2. Lovely! Happy birthday V–what a perfect gift!

    Comment by Angela Jones on June 6, 2012 at 10:45 am

  3. Claire,

    This is such a beautiful letter. As I get closer and closer to becoming a father (barely over a month to go), I’m getting more and more excited. I do, however, still suffer from nerves. I wonder what it will all be like, how I will be as a dad, how it will change my relationship with my wife, and just how having a human being to look after will change us each as people. Your letter, though, makes me less nervous, and simply more thrilled to meet this new person and all that will come with him or her.

    Thank you for that.

    Your daughter is such a gorgeous little girl. You’ve obviously done an amazing job as a mother. I wish you all the luck this coming week as you have your second child!

    - Christopher

    Comment by Christopher Sprinkle on June 6, 2012 at 10:48 am

  4. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful gift to your daughter. I was entirely moved and honored to read this. Happy 3rd Birthday, Little One! And Happy Birth-Day to you, Claire!

    Comment by Julie on June 6, 2012 at 10:56 am

  5. Multiply that little person full of love and joy by about a million, and that’s how you’ll most likely be feeling three years from now. It just keeps getting better!

    Much love and luck to you for the next big reveal, Claire — Vera is going go be an absolutely awesome big sister!

    Comment by Carroll on June 6, 2012 at 11:07 am

  6. Wow Claire….beautiful doesn’t begin to describe the sentiments in this letter…..
    Happy bday to Vera and happy birthing to you. Thinking of you and your sweet family.

    Comment by Lesli on June 6, 2012 at 12:02 pm

  7. Ah, so lovely, Claire. Sometimes we get so busy, I forget to stop and feel things the way that you do. I love this reminder.

    Comment by Lisa Lilienthal on June 6, 2012 at 2:13 pm

  8. Love this, Claire! Enjoy the journey. xoxo

    Comment by Ron Stempkowski on June 6, 2012 at 2:43 pm

  9. Happy Birthday Veronica!! What a beautiful letter once again, Claire!

    Comment by Vanessa on June 6, 2012 at 2:50 pm

  10. I am in tears reading this beautiful letter for your daughter. She is a fortunate little girl to have two wonderful, loving parents! I’m excited for all of you as you embark on a new chapter of life! Best wishes!

    Comment by Karen on June 6, 2012 at 3:00 pm

  11. i love that you call vera “kiddo”, just like you dad used to call you…!

    Comment by Tony Davis on June 6, 2012 at 3:37 pm

  12. Beautiful! How wonderful that she will have these wonderful letters. You’re a wonderful mom. I’m sure your parents would be/are proud.

    Comment by Sue on June 6, 2012 at 5:16 pm

  13. Happy Birthday to Vera! How precious you are and how loved. Thank you, Claire, for sharing your lovely letter for her with us.

    Comment by Jeanne on June 6, 2012 at 7:53 pm

  14. Beautiful! I’m tearing up, too, and am hoping that my husband thinks it’s the damn allergies again. :)

    Comment by Liz on June 6, 2012 at 10:17 pm

  15. “…..your mother’s rebellious streak and your father’s sense of humor.” Hope she has inherited those either through nature or nurture. I’ve read a few of Greg’s writings and he definitely has humor and a wry way of looking at things. It lets you get out of your habitual mindset to get a different perspective. It is most valuable in the darkest times. I could not help thinking while reading your book, that you could have really used Greg’s humor, even graveyard humor, to lighten your load. Vera’s a lucky girl.

    Comment by Paul Tredgett on June 6, 2012 at 10:55 pm

  16. Thank you for sharing this beautiful letter, Claire. What a lucky little girl Veronica is. You express a balance and honesty as a mom that I admire and will serve your children well. Happy Birthday to your little girl and happy belated birthday to you!! Thinking about you and sending good wishes as you get ready for the birth of your baby. Excited to hear the news :) xo Annie

    Comment by Annie on June 7, 2012 at 5:34 am

  17. Claire!! Am crying now. So sweet…I am going to start this gorgeous tradition with my beautiful niece & nephew…:)))

    Comment by Francesca on June 7, 2012 at 7:31 am

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