Cloche Designs | Oh, the Places We’ve Been!
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Oh, the Places We’ve Been!

Written by: Laura Nell Burton
Photography by: Christin Gish

Dear Child of Grace and Light,
It’s 6:00 a.m. on your last day of elementary school. Soon, I’ll wake the troops and dress for your graduation ceremony…but first, I want to write you a love letter…

Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

Last night, I took a walk down Nancy Nell lane. Sitting criss-cross applesauce on the floor of my closet, I sifted through fragments I’ve collected these past eleven years of your life. Lingering over sweet crayola handwriting, and artistic drawings you thoughtfully tucked inside my Bible…this, decorated on the backside with your handprints, might be my favorite:

Dear Mommy,
You love me whenever I am good or bad.
You take care of me night and day.
You make me feel special even when I don’t feel so special.
You don’t complain. You are my mom and I will always love you!
Nancy Nell

Where has the time gone? So much has happened since then…a new little brother, three moves while building a house, starting a new business…I wonder if I’m still the same Mommy I was when you wrote those words as a first grader….

Memories dance through my mind…

As I write to you, I say grace for the moment you made your pink debut into the world…for your ten baby fingers and toes, for memories of bathing you, dressing you, swaddling you, reading to you, singing lullabies with your tiny blond head snuggled in the curve of my neck…for stolen moments nursing you in the middle of the night. I say grace that on the day you were born, God in His perfect timing created a new beginning for your grandmother’s beautiful name.

Langmore Photography

I say grace for our days as a family of three…for those nine precious months after our wedding day while we awaited the arrival of your sister. Sweet, peaceful memories of making banana peanut butter sandwiches for your lunch after half days at preschool, while you painted pictures for me on colored construction paper and we watched Ina on the Food Network.

Robert Shaw Photography

I say grace for “doll days” when I kept you home from school because biscotti and coffee at Olmos Perk followed by a walk in the B.O.B. seemed more important. I say grace for the simplicity of life then, when fun was planting Home Depot seeds in the backyard, making “soup” in the kitchen with leftover icing and candy, renting DVDs from Blockbuster, dress up, and lemonade stands.

I say grace for smocked dresses and braided hair in bows.

I say grace for elementary school days—for the joy of packing your lunch, the blessing of hearing about your day at carpool, the duty of helping you with homework, taking you to the doctor, driving your huge bass around like a fourth child, sending you off to Camp Waldemar each June, teaching you about your changing body, and everything else in between. Every day has been so full of fleeting gifts. I pray that I’ve unwrapped them with a happy, serving heart. And I pray that I’m ready to receive new gifts waiting for me in the challenges of parenting you through middle school. I don’t know if I am.

What I do know is that I’ll never be ready for is this continuous, compounding process of letting you go. On the day you were born, I gave a piece of my heart away to a tiny daughter created inside of me only to one day fly away. And with each passing year, the responsibility to protect you in this big wide world of possibilities is ever less mine and ever more God’s. Someday, when you’re a mother, you’ll understand that watching you spread your wings fills me with equal parts great joy and deep sadness as I yearn to linger a little longer with you in more simple days now gone by.

Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.

 And when things start to happen,
don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along,
You’ll start happening too.

As I look ahead with uncomfortable uncertainty, there are two things I’m sure of: I trust God with your future; and I fiercely believe in you, my firstborn, my first baby love. You’re selfless and obedient and kind. You’re brave and smart and witty. You’re beautiful, inside and out. You’re precious and special and loved, just the way you are. Once my little girl, overnight it seems, you’ve become a lovely, independent young lady. I’m so proud of you—every day—and today, as a I watch you walk across your elementary auditorium stage for the very last time, I will say grace that I am your mother.

May the Lord bless you and keep you,
Make His face to shine upon you,
Swarm you with His armies of angels,
And bring you joy and peace, today and always…

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

You have magic!

P.S. You haven’t even read this yet, and by His grace, you’ve already written me back…thank you for your graduation day love letter, your thoughtfulness takes my breath away. I love being your mom, precious girl! XXOO

Alissa Attinger Photography