Happy Birthday, Sophie.
One of the many, and often overlooked, joys of each person being the author of their own story are the moments in which we quietly write a passage in someone else's without ever knowing. About two weeks ago, you wrote one down in mine.
There’s something about spending so much time running away from your past to just turn around and drive right into the heart of it that doesn’t hit you until you’re 2 miles away from a beautiful house in Edmond that’s home to the people who destroyed you. Something that makes you drive in circles 3 times as you near their street; and even miss the neighborhood completely so you can add a few extra minutes to your destination time.
Something that makes you turn, knuckles white on the steering wheel, and drive past a house that gives you pause because your eyes are met with a giant sign in the yard that reads: Happy Birthday, Sophie.
I cant lie; this token of the obvious affection your parents have for you made my stomach twist at first. It read like a taunt from God and, truthfully, I hated you for a moment or two when I saw it.
I wasn't in the mood to think about how a happy child growing up in a home full of love is living out her life just a block or two away from the ones who sent mine on a spiral. That while I was reliving every traumatic memory I had buried far into the back of my mind, you were making ones that you could look back on and smile warmly upon. That you'd grow in blissful ignorance having never known the feeling of being too busy just getting to tomorrow that you have no idea what to do with tomorrow when it comes.
It all felt like salt in my wounds that had only just started to scab over before I made the nearly two hour drive up from Tulsa and opened it up again.
Or maybe your life isn’t as charmed as my assumption. Maybe this gesture wasn’t one of affection, but more of a gratuitous show of superiority to the other neighborhood parents like the overdone events I had been accustomed to in my youth.
A curtain to hide the tension much like the curtain that keeps you from seeing that the wizard is, in fact, just a man.
Whatever the matter may be, you stuck with me. Not because the sign still bothered me but, rather, because I couldn't understand why it had in the first place.
What bitterness that lives within me wishes the pain I experienced in my youth upon someone else's? Who could be so petty and mean spirited that they'd be satisfied to know another little girl is treading, with bated breath, on eggshells that will litter the floor of all her childhood memories?
It wasn't until later, as I sat in a middle school gym pretending not to notice the eyes trying to burn a hole into me, that I realized I wasn't angry at your happy home. I was mourning the absence of mine.
I wasn’t angry that you would likely never know the feeling of nearly passing out as your mother and stepfather walk towards you, or the feeling of relief as they pass you without a word. I was ashamed that I felt the need to hide from them at all.
It wasn't your fault that a trip to Edmond to see and support my sister during her band concert had to be a covert operation; and the anger that I felt for the fact it was wasn't directed at you. It was directed at me for being so afraid of what would happen if it wasn't.
Comparison is the thief of joy, which was a phrase I knew well but didn't fully understand until I read the words "Happy Birthday, Sophie" on your front lawn.
At the end of the day. I’m not the kid with the giant sign in her front yard on her birthday. I’m not the girl that grows up safe, secure, and well adjusted. My story is not told in cheerful limerick, but as an elegy to innocence.
The realization nearly brought me to tears, but I had to ask myself if it's really a bad thing to have lacked the charmed life so many others have been privileged to know.
The darkness in my past has been a subject of despair of mine for many a year; but I wonder if the story I've been writing is one of woe, or of hope. If I was given a tragic back story, or an origin story. If the trials had beaten me down to a fearful submission or forged my will in resilient flame.
I’m not the kid with the giant sign in her front yard on her birthday, this is true. The road I’ve walked to where I stand has been narrow and rocky, but it’s mine all the same; and though seeing the ghosts of my past move towards me in real time struck fear into my core, did that path not lead me to the spot where I could stand in defiance of them?
I came, I saw, I fell, and most importantly: I'm still here.
One day, when you're older, you'll learn that we are each a mosaic of all the times we laughed to every tear we shed; and to display only a monument to our most joyous moments is an insult to the people we fight tooth and nail to become. Hopefully you can learn that without the help of a Party City-esque custom banner.
All this to say: I hope your birthday was the happiest of your life until next year's. I hope you wake up every day concerned with the appropriate matters of childhood-like what to wear to your stuffed animal's tea party-and go to sleep every night with your mosaic of rainbows untouched by clouds for just one more day.
I dont care if that isn't the life of some little girl I never so much as caught a glimpse of. It's the life I'm going to keep envisioning when I think of whoever lives in that house, because if it couldn't have been mine, it should at least be yours.
Happy Birthday, Sophie.