Dear Holly: A Father’s Letter to His Daughter on Her 1st Birthday

1 year old.

Dear Holly,

In the months leading up to your birth, I tried to imagine what you were going to be like. I pictured this sweet, happy, little girl who not only would be so special to me, but also to everyone who meets her.

Turns out, I was exactly right. You are indeed such a remarkable daughter. The only thing that caught me off guard about you is your blue eyes and your strawberry blonde hair; which make you even that much more special, especially in our family.

I am fascinated by you. I am eternally motivated to watch you continue to become Holly the girl, and eventually, Holly the woman.

There is a special bond I have with you that I have never experienced with anyone else. It’s undeniably the bond between a father and his daughter.

I love the way you look at me, for confirmation that you are indeed loved and beautiful and precious. I love giving you that confirmation.

Being your Daddy is not something I am casual about. I am quite aware of the responsibility I have in being the main man in your life during these first couple of decades. The way you see the world- and the way your see men, will ultimately be based on how you see me.

I refuse to be passive. I refuse to be dominating.

Instead, I am very deliberate to find the importance balance of being a stern yet loving Daddy.

You’ll need that from me for the rest of your life.

Getting to be your Daddy is an epic thing. I am so proud of my 1 year-old daughter.

How could I not be? You are one amazing little girl.

You are so special to me. I love you.

Happy Birthday, Holly.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: Your 1st Easter (and 4 Different People’s Birthday Celebrations!)

11 months.

Dear Holly,

With your 1st birthday coming up next Monday, Mommy and I decided to celebrate your birthday in Alabama with my side of the family; while we were already in town for Easter.

Once we arrived in Fort Payne, we immediately stopped at the Easter Egg Hunt that 1st Baptist Church has each year. Honestly, you weren’t too concerned with all the eggs in the grass.

Instead, you were just as happy to simply look beautiful in your dress, and have anyone come over and tell you what a pretty little girl you are.

Granted, your brother Jack was the complete opposite. Actually, I feel a little bit bad about how fiercely he dominated the egg hunt for his age division. He is so competitive that it was more about “winning”. Yet still, I was very proud of him, because I feel he learned that from me.

For lunch, we met Uncle Al and Sharon at the only restaurant we ever go to: Toke. With its Thai and Japanese cuisine, everyone in our family can eat there; including your Daddy, the manly vegan.

That’s when the early birthday presents started appearing for you. Plus, Nonna’s birthday was earlier that week, and mine is actually today.

In what turned out to be a major coincidence, your cousin Calla was invited to a Pokemon birthday party. When the birthday boy’s family heard that you and Jack were in town, they invited our family as well.

Then back at Nonna and Papa’s house afterwards, it was time for a few more gifts…

So yeah, there was a lot of celebrating to be done: Not only Easter, but 4 birthdays!

With Easter moving around the calendar every year (last year it was in March), I imagine that typically, Easter will be about a month before all our birthdays; most years.

But as for your first Easter, it got to be extra special because our family got to begin celebrate your birthday early. Just a few more days now for your actual birthday…

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: You Lost Your 1st Tooth… and So Did the Tooth Fairy!

6 years, 5 months.

Dear Jack,

Last Thursday as I drove you to school, you told me, “Daddy, my tooth is starting to hurt a little bit now when I wiggle it.” I told you that was a good sign you’d be losing your first tooth pretty soon.

When I got home that evening from work, Mommy immediately called you over to me.

You then announced: “Daddy, look! I lost my tooth!” You held up a clear plastic bag, containing your little white trophy inside.

This is amazing to me, as it was such a quick process; not long and drawn out over several weeks like it was for my first tooth. There was no need for me to tease you about scenarios in which I might have to tie a string to your tooth on one end and then to a door knob on the other, then slam the door, causing your tooth to be jerked out.

None of that was necessary. It was just so simple and subtle with your first tooth.

Not to mention, you’re not even 6 and a half yet; still in Kindergarten. From what we can remember, Mommy and I were in 2nd grade.

As I got you ready for bed that night, you explained you would rather place the tooth on your night stand, not under your pillow. I had no issue with that.

What you didn’t explain, however, was that for some reason, you decided to place the tooth on top of the plastic bag, instead of inside of it. Don’t ask me how I know this, but the tooth fairy just picked up the bag from your night stand, leaving behind the tooth; along with 5 one dollar bills.

Once the tooth fairy realized that the tooth had been left behind, the tooth fairy had to crawl on hands and knees in the dark in an attempt to locate the tooth, assuming it had fallen into the carpet. Fortunately, the tooth was still on the night stand somehow.

Your first tooth was lost in more ways than one!

Love,

Daddy

My Thoughts on Turning 36 Today

As Facebook has reminded you, today is my 36th birthday. It was this day in 1981 that my parents had to change the name they had planned on giving me, Mario, because when I was born, I didn’t look Italian and Mexican enough (on my mom’s side) to live up to what that name should look like. I was born with much fairer skin and lighter hair than I have now…

So instead, they gave me a Greek name, Nicholas, which means “victorious.” In hindsight, that name has become a tribute to my Italian grandfather, Alberto Victorio Metallo. Fate would have it that despite not looking ethnic enough for the name Mario on the day I was born, members of my family unanimously agree that as a grown man, I definitely have an undeniable resemblance to my grandfather; whose own father emigrated here from southern Italy about 100 years ago.

When it comes to my age, I will never be the kind of person who is ashamed or embarrassed by that ultimately arbitrary number, no matter how high it gets. Because the whole point of a birthday is to celebrate your life with the people who care about you.

It’s that one day of the year where you don’t have to do anything but be alive, and accordingly, people make a big deal about you still existing in the universe.

On the day you are born, you are not psychologically developed enough to appreciate the world celebrating your arrival into the world. And when you die, at your funeral, you are not able to physically respond to everyone mourning your passing, as well as celebrating your life that has now come to an end.

But for the birthdays in between those bookmarks, we can all celebrate together, in these living years.

In real time, we can consciously appreciate the precious and mysterious gift of life. We can celebrate our shared memories, that in theory, only continue to exist because we still remember them.

I think birthdays are great.

So here’s to being closer to 40 than 30.

Here’s to being grateful for all I have, including people who celebrate the fact that I still exist in the universe.

Here’s to being reminded everyday, not just my birthday, how much I matter in this world; especially to a beautiful girl from California, and our wondrous blue-eyed children.

Dear Jack: Your Street Fight with “Uncle Owl”

6 years, 5 months.

Dear Jack,

Last Saturday while visiting my side of the family in Fort Payne, Alabama, we went to our favorite restaurant; a Thai and Japanese place called Toke.

I noticed that throughout the meal, my Uncle Al (who you have always called “Uncle Owl”, and I’ve never corrected you) was teasing you. I remember how after the server gave you some lollipops, Uncle Owl did the classic, “Hey, look over there!” and snagged your candy while you looked behind you.

Of course this only triggered you to want to get him back for tricking you…

As we were all leaving the restaurant, I helped Mommy gather your sister’s diaper bag and Mommy’s purse. Therefore, I was the last to walk out of the restaurant.

When I stepped out into the parking lot, focusing on working my way to the car to load up your sister, I heard some commotion coming from behind me on the sidewalk right in front of the restaurant.

And then I saw it…

You and Uncle Owl had just engaged in a street fight!

At first, I wasn’t sure that you had a chance at winning. But then I realized your specific strategy: to continually run around Uncle Owl and kick him in the seat of the pants.

That was going well for you until Uncle Owl used his classic move again: “Hey Jack, look over there!”

Again, you fell for his trick, causing yourself to end up in a head lock.

The street fight had gained an audience, as our family gathered ‘round the action. It was becoming obvious this was anybody’s fight.

But since we needed to get your sister out of the sun and into the air conditioning of the car, the fight indeed came to an end, with no declared winner.

Fortunately, despite the public spectacle, no complaints were filed nor were the authorities notified.

But I have a feeling there will be a rematch…

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: You’re an Outdoorsy Kind of Girl

11 months.

Dear Holly,

Something I enjoy doing is taking cute pictures of you, then putting subtle captions on them, as I attempt to imagine what you would be saying if you could talk yet.

This past weekend we spent the entire afternoon at the playground at Westhaven with Hanna’s family. Her daddy, Mohamad, took pictures of the two of you the entire time.

One of my favorites is where you are sitting in the bucket swing, with your sun hat and your pacifier. The caption I wrote was this: “I like to come here sometimes just to collect my thoughts.”

It’s funny because it somehow seems real; like that’s really what you’re thinking about, though your just a little baby girl.

Mohamad was able to get several shots of you and Hanna just hanging out. At the time, your brother and I were playing at the creek, so I don’t know for sure what was going on, but I imagine the two of you having fun just staring out into the distance; neither of you knowing what you were looking at, but just knowing you were having fun.

You loved every minute of our time out at the park. Not only did you get to spend time with your friend Hannah, who you’ve known your whole life, but you got to spend a whole afternoon outside, on a wonderful sunny day.

It’s true- you an outdoorsy kind of girl. You love feeling the breeze through your hair. You love hearing and watching the birds fly across the sky.

This makes me happy because I definitely consider myself an outdoorsy kind of guy, as I know your brother is too.

So I have a feeling we have a long future of hiking, canoeing, and just exploring the great outdoors. We’re going to have a lot of fun in life.

Love,

Daddy

Photos by Mohamad Alaw.

Dear Jack: You Have Really Cool Parents

6 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack,

Looking at the pictures from on our visit last Saturday to Westhaven with our friends Mohamed, Lena, and Hanna, one thing becomes undeniable: You have really cool parents.

Mohamed and I, both being the token “take hundreds of pictures of your kid at every outing” kind of dads, ended up getting some good shots of all the kids.

I like the picture he took of you and me playing on the slide, where you are hiding below, in attempt to scare me as I go down the slide. The look on your face seems to indicate, “Yeah, I know my dad’s crazy… but I’m used to it by now.”

In addition to me purposely pushing you too high on the swing, to test your limits, you purposed we engage in a good classic game of Tag. I thought it was funny how you started by proclaimed, “Daddy, I’m it first.” But then you didn’t start chasing me…

So I turned the tables on you and started chasing you instead, and you ran from me… even though it was supposed to be the other way around.

Once you finally embraced what being it meant, I found a way to challenge you as you chased me. We were standing next to this swinging balance beam.

As you ran towards me and got close, I simply jumped over the balance beam. Then as you ran around it, I jumped back to the other side.

Speaking of the balance beam, Mommy was really good at crossing it without falling off.

You were so happy when I found a little plastic alligator in the playground mulch. We took it down to the creek, where you used a boat made out of leafs, so he could “sail down the river.”

Yep, you have really cool parents. No playing on our smart phones from the bench. We’re out there having fun with you any chance we get.

Love,

Daddy

Photos by Mohamad Alaw & Nick Shell.