Happy Birthday Ri! I am so happy you came into my world nine years ago. Those first few months with you were a bit frightening for dad and me. You’d cry at the 4 pm witching hour and we could not console you. Dad would sling you like a sloth over his forearm and rock you back and forth while we looked dejected at one another not knowing what to do to calm you down. I’d throw you in the snuggli and walk miles around Grandview watching you as you slept with your baby face on my chest. Nights were ridiculous with you – I really thought either dad or I would go insane before you hit age one. We had to get up every two hours with you to feed you and rock you and whisper lullabies to you. Then we’d lay you gently in your crib only to hear you cry within what felt like three seconds. But you know what I take away from those episodes now that they are long gone and dad and I are sane again? That you just wanted to be near your family every moment you could. Because that is the person you are today. If you have your chance to hang out with friends or see your family, there would be no question what you chose: family. You have always loved weddings and family reunions and birthday parties. You have your mom’s goofy, crazy style and always make our cousins laugh. When we have family get-togethers, you always think of games and gifts that we can play and give away to family. You You are the most generous and thoughtful little girl.
When we went to Claire’s to get your ears pierced, you saw a friend in the store. She really wanted a stuffed animal but her mom said no. You begged me to buy it for her and told me you’d pay me back. When there’s only one cookie left and you and Mario need to decide who gets it, you always give it up to him. And you are always ready to help your mom out when she needs it. As I’ve told you a thousand times in the past, I swear you were my mother in a different life. You have got more mom genes in you than me and all the grandmas combined. When Mario is up to no good, you are the first one to yell “Mario Joseph Ionno, get over here!” When I complain about my leg hurting, you are the first one to say “if you didn’t run on it and let it rest, it wouldn’t hurt so badly!” When I cried at Grandma’s funeral, you were there with tissues in hand. You have an innate sense of compassion and empathy for people that will be a great compliment to your life. Those values will guide you as you meet new friends, go to college, and establish a career, and that brings me joy.
You also have an adventurous spirit. You love a thrill, be it rock climbing or parasailing. I have a feeling that spirit will only get stronger as you grow up and I will see you jumping off a cliff into blue waters like Anna Quindlen saw her daughter when she was a teen. And like Anna Quindlen, I am in awe of the girl you have become. You make me strive to love more, be more present, breathe in the days, and parasail 500 feet above the ocean. I would have never done that without you, my love! This mother/daughter connection is quite a force and I am overjoyed that you are the one I am connected to for the rest of my days. You are a gem on this Earth and I adore you. Happy 9th birthday, punk-wunk!