Opening the box of my heart

September 26th, 2008

A letter to my daughter on my birthday.

My dear heart,
It is customary in these parts to post letters of reflection on our children’s birthdays. But at my age and altitude, a birthday is everyone’s birthday and I can no longer split the difference.

There were stirrings that something was up with you of late. A scurry and hush as I walked into your room. The scattered remnants of things cut out, disassembled, refashioned. You assured me that I would love the present you were making for me, if only I could wait.

This was new for you. Not new to make something, no that isn’t new. But to make and keep a secret of your own. To guard yourself so well and to let excitement crest in your own sturdy chest.

In the morning I came into the kitchen and found the surprise you had snuck overnight onto the center of the table, mimicking every birthday of your own, starting the party at dawn, because not one moment of a day so long awaited can be wasted.

I found a box.

Inscribed with the curious glyphs of a language you now own:

Decorated with pictures of your friends and family, the people and the places you inhabit with and without me:

Labeled emphatically with the contents, the contents that cannot be named or contained:

Opening it, I already know that everything is inside.

I love my life.


  1. beautiful life
    beautiful daughter
    beautiful you

    many happy returns of the day.

    love you,

    Comment by Wendy — September 26, 2008 @ 6:10 pm

  2. A neverending gift.

    Happy Birthday!

    Comment by She She — September 26, 2008 @ 6:11 pm

  3. Happy birthday to you! Eonderfully thoughtful gifts from childhood!

    Comment by Cat — September 26, 2008 @ 6:28 pm

  4. Your beautiful daughter.

    My two-year old saw me crying as I read your post and said, “Mommee. eyes melting?”

    Nope, just my heart.

    Comment by Mrs. B. Roth — September 26, 2008 @ 6:59 pm

  5. Happy birthday, Karen. Here’s to staying in the box.

    You are a gift to the world, and to me.

    xo Jena

    P.S. Aviva says, “Go Libras!”

    Comment by Jena Strong — September 26, 2008 @ 7:18 pm

  6. Happy birthday Karen. I love birthdays. Your daughter is a lucky girl.

    Comment by Kristin H. — September 26, 2008 @ 7:50 pm

  7. This made me teary too! Happy Birthday Karen!

    Comment by Shalet — September 26, 2008 @ 8:36 pm

  8. Since we are all one, we all get to celebrate with you! Happy birthday!

    Comment by Judy Merrill-Smith — September 26, 2008 @ 9:00 pm

  9. dear one enjoy the clebration of life, your own and that of the whole world.

    Comment by Bridge — September 26, 2008 @ 9:03 pm

  10. Happy Day!

    Comment by Stacy (mama-om) — September 26, 2008 @ 9:35 pm

  11. Happy Birthday, Karen! We are almost birthday twins…

    Comment by Jen Lee — September 26, 2008 @ 10:39 pm

  12. Lovely! Did you ever notice that the word love is in lovely?


    Comment by Anonymous — September 26, 2008 @ 11:17 pm

  13. Bless you both. And Happy Birth Day, Karen. I love your life, too. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    Comment by Holly — September 27, 2008 @ 2:25 am

  14. I made a similar gift for my mother once. When she died, I found it in her things. It is a strange thing when the things we make for love of our parents come back to us.

    Sorry if that sounds morbid. I don’t mean it to be.

    A birthday is a wonderful thing. Happy birthday to you. And to the memory of your mother–thanks to her for giving us you.

    Happy Birthday.

    Comment by mapelba — September 27, 2008 @ 4:04 am

  15. how are blessed are we to have you.
    how blessed are you to have her.
    how blessed.
    happy birthday.

    Comment by jessamyn — September 27, 2008 @ 4:11 am

  16. this is wildly beautiful…heart opening…bliss.
    happy, happy birth*day.

    Comment by gem — September 27, 2008 @ 9:28 pm

  17. That’s lovely. I can’t wait until my kids get to do stuff like that.

    Happy Birthday

    you are blessed.

    Comment by Rowena — September 27, 2008 @ 10:55 pm

  18. I send you lots of love on your birthday, even though you have enough.

    Happy birthday,

    xo Mika

    Comment by Mika — September 27, 2008 @ 11:13 pm

  19. Happy, happy birthday, dear heart! The beautiful gift that your daughter made you proves that it is all about the small stuff, anyway. How else could she have fit everything that is wonderful and important into one, little box? You are such a lucky mom, Karen. And she is a very lucky daughter. I’m glad it works that way. My girls ages 14, 16, 18 and 21 still make me birthday gifts. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Those are the things that I will never lose, tire of, or give away.

    Sending you birthday hugs and prayers!


    Comment by Debra W — September 28, 2008 @ 3:22 am

  20. what a breath of freshness.

    your birth, her birth, the box’s birth.

    happy day momma zen.


    Comment by mb — September 28, 2008 @ 5:34 pm

  21. Happy Birthday. I’m so glad you got what you deserve.

    Comment by Shelli — September 28, 2008 @ 7:37 pm

  22. and many more….

    Comment by Anna — September 29, 2008 @ 10:58 am

  23. Happy happy birthday dear Karen. May you always love your life!!

    Comment by Leah — September 30, 2008 @ 12:27 am

  24. happy (belated) birthday dear Karen…
    i am so happy you were born…
    sending you love this and every day.

    Comment by Meg Casey — September 30, 2008 @ 6:09 pm

  25. happy belated birthday dear one. A lucky day for all of us.

    Comment by nyjlm — October 1, 2008 @ 3:01 am

  26. That’s just beautiful! Happy birthday (late, because it’s me). 🙂

    Comment by Mary P Jones (MPJ) — October 1, 2008 @ 4:07 am

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