It’s a hot, summer day in Woodbridge, Virginia. While kids are riding their bikes down the street, and toddlers are playing out in the front yard as their parents sip cold drinks on the porch, Grace Copeland and her father are moving boxes around in their basement. Her dad is putting together the store bought boxes together as Grace is in the closet area of the basement, waiting to pack everything to move to New York for college in the Fall. She looks around the small closet area, realizing she never really came down here and paid any attention to this kind of stuff in the first place. She wondered what were in these boxes; where they just holiday decorations? Winter clothes? Old yearbooks her father kept all these years? Knowing her father, she wasn’t surprised at the fact that he probably kept her old baby clothes in storage too. She continued to scan the room until her eyes met up with a fuschia color box with purple and green paisley designs on it. She took the stool she was sitting on and placed it in front of the mountain of boxes and proceed to take the fuschia box down from its place. Not getting a good enough grip on it, the box falls to the ground, creating a noise loud enough to alert her father. Her dad asks her if everything was okay, and with Grace racing to pick up the box, she said she was fine.
When she heard her father go back upstairs with the made-up boxes, now was her time to look in the fuschia box and see what was so special about this peculiar looking box. In faded out script lettering, the top of the box read “Grace”. Grace noticed the piece of string holding onto a button in front of the box, and she began to unloop it. The box opened and Grace couldn’t believe what she saw: photos upon photos of Grace and her family when she was a baby, baby-sized hair clips and a baby cloth with pink ducks on it. In a little frame Grace notices and picks up, there is a picture of Grace’s mother in a beautiful, shimmery costume holding up Grace when she was just a baby. Grace stares at the photo, wishing she was able to remember this day. She imagines what was happening at that exact moment the picture was taken. She puts the picture frame back in the box and goes through it one more time before putting it back before her father catches her looking at it. Why is this box addressed to me though? she keeps asking herself. Before ultimately giving up, she picks up the box and notices a dangling piece of paper attached to the bottom of the box. Carefully, she flips over the box to read what was on the piece of paper.
Please give her the letter in the picture frame on her 18th birthday. -M
Grace raised her eyebrows, quickly flipping the box back over to get the picture frame from inside. Grace gets the picture frame, turns it around, and notices a little tab on the bottom left corner. She pulls the tab and the back of the picture frame opens. A folded white piece of paper is shown. She takes the paper and unfolds it and begins to read the letter:
My Dearest Grace,
Today is your 18th birthday. You’d be a high-school graduate, a college freshman, and beginning your journey into womanhood. I am beyond proud of you. You managed to go through your childhood and teens, experience life through your own eyes and made it to this special day and this special milestone. I know your strength, independence, spunk, and your passion got you where you are now, and for that, I look up to you now.
When I was eighteen, I wasn’t in the greatest place. For years I held onto demons that carried from my own childhood into my teenage years, and I never knew how to manage those demons until I met your dad. Your dad was always such a positive person. He saw a light in me that I thought went out years before. He showed me I was more than those past demons and past experiences: I was a talented and passionate girl who could strive to do big and better things. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to study in Julliard, I wouldn’t have made it on time to an audition that would change my life forever, and I wouldn’t have had such a beautiful daughter like you.
But, demons are demons for a reason, and I let them decide my fate.
Grace, wherever you may be at this exact moment, I know up until this moment you may believe I didn’t love you enough or you weren’t good enough for me to stay. The truth is I think about you every single day of my life. I wonder what’s your favorite color. I wonder if your bedroom is decorated in pinks and purples and have a whole vanity full of lipsticks and eyeshadows. I wonder if it’s all-sports equipment. I wonder if you eat Butter Pecan ice cream in bed like I used to as a teenager. I wonder if you’ve found love yet. I wonder if you are anything like me.
Watching you and your father that one night is a memory I think about often. Seeing your eyes full of wonder and excitement; the image is irreplaceable. It was the last night of the season and your first time at one of the shows. Everyone could not stop talking about how cute and bubbly and happy you were backstage. You were mesmerized by all of the shiny gold costumes and you loved looking at yourself in the dressing room mirror. When it was time for my section of the showcase, dad brought you to the little section of the stage where you saw all the dancers dance up close. I remember your dad telling me, “Grace’s mouth was open in pure awe the entire time; she even clapped and went crazy after every dancer performed!” I imagine how happy you were that night.
I don’t think there will be a time I hope to hear your voice or see your face just one last time. I hope you know my decision years ago had nothing to do with you or your father. I was young, and I was selfish. I can’t turn back time and make the decision knowing now how life turns out, but I can only hope that I could make things right in the future. Of course, the choice is yours.
Happy 18th Birthday, Grace.