Sixteen candles


Originally due December 19th, her middle name was to be Noel. Fashionably late then (and still we’re kept waiting on her more often than not) she chose instead a January birthday.

I cooked a turkey on the night of January 5th.  I was an inexperienced cook and so quite literally every inch of space in that tiny kitchen was left sprinkled, splattered or smudged by the time I had finished.  A turkey dinner with all the trimmings required every pot–every casserole dish and baking pan–in my rummaged repertoire of kitchen equipment.  I was young and determined–and oh so very ripe with child.

I woke with contractions at midnight but the siren song of winter’s sleep coaxed me in again.  I drifted back and forth for as long as I could but then the pains came sharp and raw and no more could I ignore what would surely be.

Into the black of night we went–car door handles frozen shut.  I felt every bump–every rattle and slam and crash–as that little Dodge Neon sped down the long dirt road out.

Sight unseen, the nurse predicted: She’s going to be a redhead.  And she was.  Is.

Stubborn then {and still} they had to pry her out.  Finally she came and in that very first instant my fears were relieved: most assuredly I could love another just as much as my first.  No doubts.  Fierce love.  True love.  Mama’s love.

She has worn a spot in my heart.  A hollow only she could fill.

For the longest time I kept a chubby orange notebook in my purse–kept it solely to write down the curious things she’d say.  I never wanted to forget the tender babe she was.

She lived so many years as an exclamation point.  She was a tangled web of spunk and fever and love and fear–unsure of where she meant to go but intent to get there fast.

I saw hints of change in her and I would go to her and hold her tight and make her promise not to go teen on me.  You’ll always be nice to your Momma?, I questioned.  And indeed she promised.

Here we are in the middle of it all and maybe sometimes she forgets.  Fifteen.  Sixteen.  They’re hard years.  Hard and puzzling and like a maze they weave, crisscross, until you’ve forgotten where you’ve been and where you haven’t yet been.

I bought her the most delicate silver ring, etched with a tender vine and a sentiment scribed inside for her eyes only.  I meant to tell her when I gave it how proud I am.  How confident I am in her, even when she’s not.  How strong I believe her to be.  How the will at the core of her will carry her up, up and away.  As far as she can dream.  How the ideas she has put on display and the thoughts I suspect she thinks and the quiet truths she so rarely shares come together in the most beautiful, intricate design.  How the young woman she is coming to be is someone who is valued and honored and so very cherished by the One who knows every square centimeter of her being.  And how even those of us who only know her in earthly ways find her to be a most treasured gift.  Valued beyond compare.


I meant to tell her all that and more but I choked up and couldn’t.

I hope she knows.


Kennedy through the years















  1. Just lovely! Happy birthday to K and her mama.

    And I agree that the camo jacket photo is amazing!

  2. Wow, what a lucky girl! I did not recognize her in that first picture. Happy Birthday, beautiful girl!

  3. Happy Birthday Kennedy!

    She is, as always, a beautiful girl. I believe she will do something great with her life. It was a bit of a jolt for me to see how much she has changed since *I* first saw her. Can’t imagine that on the momma side of the fence. I feel so unprepared for these years that keep flying by.

  4. Those Cupid Cutie pictures! She was an adorable toddler…and now she’s a beauty in a brand new way.

    Happy Birthday, Kennedy.

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