You Are 21.

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When you were one minute and one second into this world, I knew before I knew, that you were special. My one and only one. My daughter. You who made me a mom. You. Ten days late. At one minute and one second years old.

At 1 you dipped your whole face into the sweet of cake and ice cream, with new friends and our family of three. Me and you and daddy. At 1.

At 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 you conquered Codimonk Preschool and playgrounds and beaches. Water and sand and shells and rocks fit for the Gemini. Running, running, running everywhere. Criss cross applesauce.

At 6 and 7 and 8 you hung out on film sets and in rehearsal halls, listened to all kinds of music, ran around naked in the backyard and on beaches, and did nothing until you were good and ready. You also discovered Sharpies and all the dolls and even the dogs had a strange case of Sharpie pox. We laugh.We three. We cry. Ballet is not for you. Soccer is. And bikes. And legos. And technology.

9,10,11. You saw, you see. Something does not feel right. In your heart of hearts and deep into your bones, you begin to understand layers of life.Your GrandPat flows into the ocean and you miss her and all she brought to your world. And then something still does not feel right. You feel the feels. The hurt. Addiction takes hold in our family of three. The shame. The love. The love. The love. The hope. You take it in, you ask big questions. You sort of understand big answers. You take it all in. Your mind can set up the wide shot,edit, set up the shot again and again and again. You ask more questions. Your daddy sits you down and cracks open his heart with a truth and grace that few can do at any age. You ask for answers, you ask more questions. About life. About everything that filters through your mind. Your heart. Your gigantic heart knows the power of love as well as the limiations of love.

At 12. At 12. At 12. On the first day of 7th grade your world, our world, changed. Sirens.Screams.Tears.Flashing lights. One world gone. In a second. New world. New questions. It’s us now. Us two. At 12.

The teens. Those teen years. Just us two. Grieving. Driving. Proms.Teen things.Teen. Things. Old house. New house. Boxes and boxes. We travel. We be. We grieve. High School is hard. People are cruel. You always learn outside the box and high school does not like this. Neither does a pandemic. Your grief is different from my grief. Why can’t he be here to see all of this? This you becoming? Because I say. Because. Because life. Because sometimes the deepest hurts and the deepest things that happen to others before we know them trickles into the deepest parts of their soul and they can not come back from the deepest hurts that happened before we knew them. We love them. We love them with our deepest and sometimes that is not enough. But you. You dear daughter were enough. Your love and laughter and donut days and all the chapters with your daddy at 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 and 6 and 7 and 8 and 9 and 10 and 11 and 12 were the deepest love your daddy ever knew. You know this. Forever. You will work with this forever. This shiny sometimes rusty part of life. This chaotic, creative, brilliant, beautiful unforgiving sometimes uptherewheretheair is rare and sweet and fleeting, is life. You find the truth. You ask the questions. You rage. You break. You mend. You heal. You come home and reset. You step back in and begin again. You do the right thing. You love. My gosh how you love. You find the truth. We settle in again and again and again.We be. Just us. College in a pandemic. Life in a pandemic. You saw. You see. You set up the wide shot and you edit it beautifully. You capture it all. We settle in. Dorm life. Pack, unpack,pack it up again. Discard what you don’t need. You find more questions. Fewer answers. More answers. More questions. You let your art lead the way and you create from grief, from the unanswered places. You create testaments of beauty from something so ugly. You find the people who lead you to it. You weed out those who lead you nowhere.We redefine family. Family. You redefine deep sadness. You find the people who see, who saw, who let your art tell the story.

And so. At 21. My only one. I gift you with the joy I have in watching you grow into this world. Into the woman, the human, the person I always knew at one minute and one second years old. I gift you with passion to follow your art, and create the images that linger. Keep going. Film them, and shape and mold and bend them to find the narrative that says to anyone,and everyone: This is me. I am my mothers daughter. I am my fathers daughter. I am of them both but not them. I am of my heartache, but not my heartache. I am of this story, but there are so many more stories to write. I am 21. This one and only one.

I love you more than you know and being your mom is the best thing that ever happened to me. Happy Birthday, my one and only one.


  1. Wow. Just wow. Two warrior women, inspiring me each and every day. Bravo! Bravo! Keep being my shining stars! Wishing Ava the best birthday ever. Love you both.

  2. Gloria… this is so beautiful … incredible collection of emotions and events that are now a part of our wonderful gifted Ava..She will touch many with her spirit..enjoy your day with your one minute-one second soul..!!
    Love you both ❤️

  3. A tribute worthy of the women your lovely daughter has become…

    Happy Birthday wishes to the beautiful and powerful Ava… the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!

  4. Because I have been lucky, oh so lucky to have incredible women in my life who have helped carve a path. You are one of those women and I love you.

  5. Goodness Great Godmother Mary. From the day we first met you sprinkled star dust in my life and then into the life of my daughter-you God daughter. Thank-you for the gifts you have given beyond the pale. I love you.

  6. Gloria that was beautifully said , all so true so deep and heartfelt, this brought tears to my eyes unconditionally loved

  7. Words are so powerful. I truly felt this to my core. You two are a magical force. Happy Birthday, Ava!

  8. The legacy of strong, thoughtful, feeling women continues. I am deeply touched by the power of your love and knowing of dear Ava. She shines, as do you.

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