Dear Isabella Rose,
Happy 1st birthday princess! I simply can’t believe that it’s been an entire year since we welcomed you into this world. I can confidently speak for both mommy and I when I say this has been the best year of our lives. We love you more than we ever thought possible and we’re excited to celebrate this first birthday with you! In this letter I am going to revisit so many of our greatest memories together, some of our struggles along the way, and most importantly, what we can look forward together in the years to come. But before I get started with all of that, there’s something important I need to share with you…
Nearly seven year ago to the day, your daddy was injured pretty badly during during his time in the military. I’m ok now but one day you will ask my why I limp sometimes or why daddy doesn’t always feel so good and I will tell you the story. But that’s not important right now. What’s important is that you understand how you play a vital role in me overcoming that struggle and becoming the man I am today.
On the night I was injured, I remember feeling sorry for myself and wondering what life after my injury would hold. It was pretty obvious that your daddy had injured himself pretty badly and I was worried about what that meant for my future. To be honest, I was pretty scared (and I don’t admit when I’m scared very often). Following my injury, I went through a very difficult time in my life and had it not been for your momma, I wouldn’t be here writing you this letter.
Now let’s fast forward to 1 year ago when I held you in my arms for the first time. All of the challenges, difficulties and adversity in my life was suddenly worth it. That feeling in my heart is something I will never forget almost as if it was God saying, “You made it”. There have been moments in my life where I genuinely questioned my ability to keep going but as I held you for that first time, I felt like God was telling me that all of the struggles that I faced in my life were to lead me to you.
Had I not dropped out of college and joined the military, I wouldn’t have turned my life around and gotten another shot with your momma and had I not gotten injured and discharged, I may not have made it back home to marry your mom so we could start our family together.
So I guess what I am trying to say is that despite the challenges I have faced, you make it all worth it. You make my life so much better. You and your mother are the answers to my prayers. This first year with you has been nothing short of breathe-taking. When I saw you open your eyes for the first time, my heart melted. When I heard you laugh I smiled bigger than I have ever smiled before and when I heard you say “dadda” that first time, my whole world started to make sense. Being a dad (your dad) is the most meaningful part of my life. So for that I say, THANK YOU!
So, now for the good stuff…
What are my favorite memories with you from year 1?
Hearing “dadda” for the first time is arguably at the top of the list. Being a dad is everything to me and hearing you say it for me just sealed the deal. You said “dadda” for weeks before your momma finally conceded and admitted I was first. She told me it didn’t count until you “intentionally” said “dadda” when you recognized me and I remember the first time you did like it was yesterday.
I walked into daycare for pickup like I had done a hundred times before but the moment I entered the door your face lit up and you SCREAMED “dadda!” with the world’s biggest smile as you crawled towards me and in that moment, my heart exploded.
I had a similar feeling the first time I heard you laugh. Your mother and I were driving home from God knows where when out of nowhere, we heard it…
We both looked at each other with overwhelming joy in our eyes like you couldn’t believe. Then your mother with her motherly instincts whips out her phone and records it! She had ninja like reflexes as she flipped around in her seat to catch that precious moment on video. We’ve re watched it hundreds (if not thousands) of times…
Then comes our 4 A.M. movie dates when you were first born. Remember? Probably not, but I sure do. I would wake up early as usual and quietly grab you from your crib and bring you down into the basement to cuddle up with me to watch movies. I would wrap us in blankets and you would go right back to sleep on my chest as I just sat there and watched you sleep for hours. I just couldn’t get enough of you.
You wanna hear a secret? When your mom would wake up she’d ask me why you didn’t sleep in your crib and I would say, “Oh, she woke up crying so I brought her downstairs so she didn’t wake you up”… I just couldn’t get enough of holding you but shhh! That will remain our little secret.
Then came your first cold a few months after you were born. I have never been so afraid in my life. Seeing you cough terrified me and not just because you were born during a pandemic but because I hated seeing you uncomfortable. Your mother and I were so worried so we called the pediatrician and they asked up to bring you in for a checkup. But the surprise came when we finally arrived…
They made us go around the back of the building and enter through the maintenance door next to the dumpsters so we didn’t “contaminate” the rest of the office…
For as afraid as your mother and I were we couldn’t help but laugh because we felt like we were smuggling a baby into a black market casino. You were ok and handled that cold like a champ. You were much tougher than daddy was.
As the months went on you kicked it into hyperdrive. You rolled over for the first time when we went down to South Carolina to see Papi and Gigi and you would have thought you won an Olympic gold medal by how loud everyone in the house cheered you on.
Then I saw Papi really hold you and it melted my heart all over again. Your grandfather has been kicking ALS’s a$$ for 5 years now and I begged God to keep him around to meet you and watch you grow up. Seeing you in his arms was everything I had hoped it would be – a memory that will forever live in the most special place of daddy’s heart. I hope one day you look at me the way I see my dad.
Then your mom put on that cute little beach outfit for your first trip to the ocean and you slept the ENTIRE time. The moment you hit the sand you were out cold which is how I know that you are just like your momma. She loves sleeping on the beach.
Of course, we can’t forget about daddy belting out “Let it Go” from Frozen while swinging you around and dancing around in the kitchen with mommy laughed hysterically.
Or how about our historic gibberish conversations (some which were VERY loud) on our drives to and from daycare?
Or that time when you open up Christmas gifts from my momma (Grandma Margaret) and the moment you opened those light up maraca’s you let out the biggest “ooooooooooo” with the most excited face I had ever seen.
And finally, one of my favorite memories – the day you picked out your very first Christmas ornament. Your mother and I took you to meet Grandma Sue at Homegoods (mommy’s favorite store) for an afternoon of shopping. The moment we walked in the door you snagged an ornament off a shelf that you REFUSED to put down.
Your mommy let you carry it around the store while we shopped but as soon as it was time to check out she wanted to put it back. Your mom and Grandma Sue had orchestrated what they believed to be a well thought out plot to remove the ornament from your hand without you noticing so they could put it back on the shelf but daddy wasn’t having that. I shut that plan down before it even began…
Your dad sees everything and when I caught on to what was happening I demanded that we buy that ornament. You loved that precious little ornament despite how ugly it may be but I am wrapped around your finger and if you wanted that ornament, you were getting it. It hung right in the middle of our Christmas tree this year.
Finally, how about your concerts with your other grandpa? Daddy worked from home on Monday’s and your mommy’s dad became the world best babysitter. He would play old Italian music and dance with you for hours on end. Every week he would ask me if the music was too loud or if it was disturbing my work. And I always said, “Are you kidding? It was the best part of my day seeing how happy you two were together. You’re like two peas in a pod.
To be honest Bella Bear, I could write for hours about all of the incredible memories we’ve had together. Your mom and I are so lucky to have you and we love you more than words could even begin to describe. God has special plans for you princess and we can’t wait to be right by your side to watch it all unfold.
There aren’t enough words in the world to capture all of our memories together but those sure are some of my favorites.
So what’s next for us?
Everything, sweetheart. Mommy and daddy are going to bring the world to your fingertips. We are so excited to enter the second year of your precious life together and we look forward to so many more memories to come. Currently, you are crawling around more than daddy did in basic training. You are playing with every toy you can find and even making new toys out of very expensive things that mommy and daddy have around the house. You are weeks away from taking your first steps and in a few months, you’ll be fitting into that adorable collection of the finest 16,432 spring outfits that mommy (and daddy) picked out for you.
Oh and one more thing…
Daddy and Grandma Margaret are working on writing and illustrating children’s book for you but shhhh…that’s a secret too.
Just promise me one thing Bella Bear, you will never stop smiling.
Love you princess. Happy Birthday!