One year ago, you were born. As of now, you are too young to read any of the letters I've been writing you, but that’s okay. I’ve been writing them to the Ellie of the future. It’s my sincerest hope that, one day, I will hand you a thumb drive filled with these letters. And then, I hope, you will browse through them casually--- that you will read about your first four months--- and smile at all of the things that you see. Not necessarily at the hardships you have endured, but at all of the fun and whimsy that came to inhabit your childhood. Things that would not have existed had they not been spun to life by those hardships. "So that is how the Clockmaker's Daughter came to be," you might say as you read. "And the Girl in the Sphere. And right there is ground zero for The Smith Family Rules of Parental Conduct. And that tradition of pranks on April Fools. And Oliver the Eel."
And when you are done discovering so many origins of the Smith Family mythos, I hope too that you will understand more about your mother and I. How those earliest days with you turned what we once thought was the stone of our character back to soft clay. How you have shaped us as much as we have shaped you.
I look back in awe at how much my hopes for you have changed. How our multitude of fears for your future have slowly faded with the months. The day you were born, I remember hoping only that you would live at least one more day. I was terrified to wish for anything bigger. It felt like I was blowing air on smoldering kindling. Blow too softly and it would starve of oxygen, but blow too hard and that delicate flame might turn to smoke and vanish.
But now? The flame is bright. Already, all of the things I was too afraid to hope for have begun to emerge in your character. An insatiable sense of curiosity. A love of the natural world and of books. A boisterous spirit that never grows tired of fun and play and an insistence on being joyous on the slimmest of excuses. I've come to admire the two dispositions that have so quickly come to dominate your character. The first side is quiet. Focused. Contemplative. The one that comes forth when observing natural beauty or things of complexity, like when we take our walks on the nature trail and you reach out to grasp a leaf and gently turn it over in your hands without plucking it from the limb. The second side is gregarious and jovial. The one that we see when there are games to be played or family to embrace, like when you grab the cheeks of your grandparents and burst into a smile. A smile that cannot be contained merely to your face, at which point your entire body quivers and bobs and shakes.
I've never seen so much unapologetic joy as I've seen from you.
As you surpass all of our expectations, conquering developmental milestones weeks or months ahead of time, I have little doubt as to why. I remember looking at you in those earliest ultrasounds when you were just the size of strawberry. I remember wondering whether that energy we witnessed was some glimpse of who you might be. I wondered again that same thing when we saw you flailing about in the days after your birth despite being smothered--- and cut through--- by wires and IV's and terrible odds. Seeing you now at one year old, I know now that what we saw before was true. There is a vital energy to everything you do. Like your mother and like your father, you are possessed by the sincerest joy of being alive.
And so my biggest wish is that this joy will never escape you. It is a joy that makes tiny pleasures large. A joy that redeems every sorrow. During your 100 days in the hospital, when it seemed all happiness had been chased from our hearts, seeing that joy in you rekindled it in us, and what should now be memories drowned in anger, fear, and bitterness instead became memories aloft with fantasy, beauty, and mysticism. I marvel at how I can look back at those hundred days with a sense of fondness, and then I marvel at you.
I’ll be writing many more letters for you, but know too that I am writing them with you. After all, it is you that has inspired me to put my thoughts to paper. You, that has turned up fresh, vast new tracts of my mind that I never knew existed. A million new thoughts flit through my brain. My heart is resident to a host of emotions that were always meant to dwell together. Love. Pride. Tenderness. Whenever I look down at you, I find that I have never had more things to say, and for every word I write to you, it is joined by tears of joy.