14 years old?? You?? Today?? Oh.My.God.
Where has the time gone? I've known you for your whole forever. I was the first person your mom announced her pregnancy to. We were young, and scared, but I immediately croaked out an excited and hopeful "Congratulations" and we cried happily together and began to chatter.
I bought you beautiful outfits and teeny tiny socks and dressed you and loved you like a real live baby doll.
I remember those PERFECT Shirley Temple ringlets and that sweet munchkin face with your freckled nose and big blue eyes. I would take you out and people would mistake you for mine and I'd laugh it off but be secretly proud someone could think something so special could belong to me.
You were sweet and funny and sassy and wise beyond your years. I remember you at 2 or 3, a tiny little thing, casually reminding me to get my flip flops (even then with the flip flops!) from the open doorway of that little guest house you guys lived in back then, the one I affectionately refer to as "The shed", because it was raining and I wouldn't want to go home with wet shoes.
You would nag us like YOU were the grown up, informing me that if you fell in the pool you would sink like a rock and die and that if I let you sit in the front seat of my car, the airbags would come out and get you (I wasn't going to do either, for the record, you were just always a mouthy little thing.)
You also grew into our friend. Our little buddy. Riding around in the back of my jeep, shopping, beaching, lounging in the baby pool in your back yard. I have so many Big Memories that involve you.
I remember being in a bridal shop trying on veils and putting them on you, hearing your delightful giggles (you had the most amazing laugh when you were sincere!) and watching you twirl in front of the mirror and talk about your wedding and realize that one day I would be there.
I remember how gorgeous you were as one of my three flower girls and how much fun I had dancing with you and how special it was to me that you were a part of my marriage to Mr. Ashley.
When Catfish and I got in that horrible interstate car accident, one of my few clear memories of it actually happening was that I thought I was about to die and had one of those "life before your eyes" slideshows and after reviewing my short 16 years I remember feeling peaceful but sad that I wouldn't graduate or get married or watch you grow up.
It has always struck me as a powerful thing, that if I had died that day, one of my last thoughts would have been regret for not being able to see who you would become.
You were, and are, and always will be, SO IMPORTANT to me. You really are a part of who I am.
You were my first glimpse into life with children. The fun, the hassle, the memories and miracles, the realization that time really does fly.
With you, I remember your mom and I saying "I can't wait for her to..." (sit up, eat solids, walk, talk, run, play, etc) and then realizing "WOW! It's here already. I remember feeling like I can't wait for this to happen and now it's happened so quickly and we can never go backwards again."
Because of that I knew to slow down a little more with my own kids. I knew more about what to expect.
I have enjoyed (almost) every moment of your existence (come on, even you know that this teenage stuff has sucked for everyone). You are an amazing human being. You are smart. You are beautiful. You are so, so, so special. You were Meant To Be in more ways than you'll ever realize.
You're going to do Big Things in this world, not to get all deep and philosophical on you, but you really do have a purpose in this life and I've always known that you were going to be an amazing adult.
(Don't let the teenage stuff get in the way of that!)
I am honored that I will get to continue to say that I've known you forever. I will be embarrassing you before your prom, I will be cheering too loudly at your graduation, I will be getting drunk at your wedding, I will be taking pictures of your babies.
And now I'm all misty eyed and goose bumped. I'm a dork.
I love you. Don't ever doubt it and don't ever forget it.
(I will also kick your butt if necessary...don't forget that either.)