To Ainsley on her 14th birthday

I've learned over the past three years that change is inevitable - even when it comes to cherished holiday traditions.

But there's one I plan to continue as long as I can. The final issue of the year also happens to be the issue before Ainsley's birthday, and I've used this space for more than a decade to pen her an annual letter.

I typically make the same two points in my introduction each year and will do so again. I am grateful she has yet to object to the very public nature of this note. I also appreciate readers' patience with this yearly rumination - and especially the gracious comments from those who say they enjoy watching her grow up, so to speak, in my columns.

Dear Ainsley,

As is the case every December, I find it hard to believe you are the age you are - and that you are about to turn a year older.

This is the end of your first year as a teenager, and from what I hear, the end of your teen years will be here before I know it. You have been taller than I am for some time now, and your Christmas gifts - mostly clothes and jewelry - clearly illustrate you are no longer a little girl.

I sometimes miss the days when we would visit Santa on Christmas Eve and you would be thrilled the next morning to find the toy kitchen or Barbie Dreamhouse he left. At the same time, I have so enjoyed watching you grow into the young woman you have become.

I love your sense of humor, your eclectic (and impeccable) taste in music and your sense of fashion. I am touched by your compassion for others and your generous heart. Hearing you sing and play your clarinet brings me such joy.

As wonderful as it is to share the big moments with you - like Christmas Day and seeing Paul McCartney in concert - I enjoy just as much sharing the small moments, like driving around looking at Christmas lights or taking the dog for a walk or running to Walgreens for Takis.

I know being in middle school is hard - even harder now with social media eliminating the breaks we used to get from cruel or annoying classmates when we went home at the end of the day. You have only a few more months left, and I know you'll get through it.

Soon you'll be on to high school and then college and then, in the blink of an eye, the rest of your life.

I'm not sure you even know who Oprah Winfrey is, but she has a famous quote that makes me think of you.

"When I look into the future, it's so bright it burns my eyes."

I'm not sure you're able to see all the wonderful things your future will hold. I'm not sure any 14-year-old, with childhood barely in the rearview mirror, is able to see very far into the future.

At a young age it's tough to have the perspective, I think, to picture life more than a few years down the road. Add to that the unsettled nature of being a teen, and it can be hard to imagine a world filled with promise.

I'm not saying everything will go smoothly for you, Ainsley. You will continue to hit rough patches and tough times. One day they will become less painful as you learn to appreciate them as opportunities of growth.

I do believe with all my heart that all of the things that make you you will translate into an amazing life filled with happiness and love. That certainly is my wish for you this birthday - and every birthday.

Love you,


- 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