A birthday letter to Ainsley as she turns 12

Nine years ago I began an annual tradition that I have somehow managed to continue. In the issue before Ainsley’s birthday each year, I use this space to write a special letter to her.

When I wrote the first, Ainsley was in preschool. She wanted to call Santa and ask for a ride in his sleigh so she could visit Baby Jesus in Heaven. She hadn’t yet learned to read — although she could recite many of her books by heart — and she had just received her first real bicycle for Christmas.

Where did that little girl go?

As you might have noticed in the headline, Ainsley is about to turn 12. She fortunately still seems to enjoy being somewhat of a celebrity in Hinsdale, thanks to her repeated mentions in the paper. I recognize that at any moment that might change and this tradition might come to an end.

Until that happens, I appreciate her patience with me as I pen these letters and the readers who humor me by saying they enjoy these annual updates. So here we go.

Dear Ainsley,

I must begin with the obvious.

You are officially taller than I am! After making me stand back-to-back with you in front of the bathroom mirror for months to check, you finally passed me up this summer. You are thrilled, I know. I am still getting used to it.

Your height is just one indication that you are well on your way to becoming a teenager. (Other clues are the amount of time you spend in the bathroom each morning getting ready and your aversion to hugs.) Fortunately, there are still moments that I can see my baby girl in you.

But those times are becoming fewer and farther between. Take the other day when you wanted to make cookies. I was all prepared to get out some recipes for us to review, and you marched in the kitchen with one you had found on your laptop and got to work. I should have known you didn’t need my help after all the wonderful dinners you made this summer. (I hope you’ll make that chicken parm again over winter break!)

I think I have made peace with the fact that you like the Beatles better than the Rolling Stones. Someone asked me how you turned into such a fan of the Fab Four, and I have no idea. You just have great taste in music, I guess (although not as good as mine!).

Speaking of music, you continue to delight your father and me when you sing or play your clarinet or violin. The music you’ve made in our house has been a true joy for us to listen to.

This has been a tough year for everyone, of course, and that includes you. You’ve lost so many opportunities — singing a solo in the school musical, performing at band and orchestra and choir concerts and your first visit to New York.

I know it was hard for you losing your grandma in November, but you know she is in a better place where Alzheimer’s and cancer can’t touch her anymore.

While no one can take her place, you certainly are surrounded by love from the new members of my birth family that I found this fall. Your new grandparents, aunt and uncle are delighted to be part of your life — and I’m delighted they are part of yours.

And we’ve had Dad home with us for nine months straight — which hasn’t happened since he started traveling when you were 2 1/2.

When you think about it, I suppose this year is not all that different from other years. We’ve had our ups and downs. Luckily, we’re able to go through them together.

I am so proud of the young woman you are becoming, and I love you more with each year that passes.

Happy birthday, my sweet girl.



— Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected].

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean