I am cannot believe how grown up you are! Just yesterday it seemed that you were a little blond haired girl - one of the centers of my boyfriend's life.
He would talk about you, and his face would soften and I could tell he adored you. The first time we met you were barely older than Addie - You've heard this story a thousand times, but I will tell it again.
Andy and I drove in late from Chicago - when arrived in Cincinnati everyone was already in bed, but taped to the banister was an envelope with my name on it. It was adorned with stickers and my name was written in little girl printing, inside I found six pennies and an orange yarn anklet. How did you know that orange was my favorite color? I remember watching you play soccer - and running the wrong way down the field after picking a few dandelions.
You came to Chicago all on your own when you were still just a little kid - I cannot believe your mother let you on that plane! Andy took you to the aquarium where you suckered him into buying you some ridiculously expensive stuffed sea creature. You also went to the Field Museum to see Sue the T Rex, with the article you cut out of the newspaper at home in your pocket. We took you to see High Fidelity on the lawn at Loyola - in retrospect I think you were a tad young for that outing!
Right after that trip Chicago I started joining your family at the beach - where I watched you fearlessly face the waves in the ocean, shaming me into joining. Even as a kid you knew how to vacation - your butt in the sand and a book in your hand.
When you were just 13 years old I officially joined your family - but you had already said that you'd "known me pretty much your whole life". You were beautiful and brave on my wedding day - you got to wear a strapless dress and walk gracefully down the aisle. You also bravely held my mirror for me as I melted into a bit of bridezilla. Not only were you there when I married your brother, but you were there the days your nieces were born. There are very few people who I could have little shame about losing control of my bladder with, but you are one of them! You are a natural with both girls - Brenna is still figuring you out, but Addie openly adores you. Not so long ago she told me she wished she looked like you and she frequently asks me to do her hair like Aunt Nikki's, "a lot in a pony tail, but a little down".
And now? Now you are twentyfreakingone.
I told Addie that today was your birthday and that you are officially a grown up and her response was "No way! Aunt Nikki is all growed up??".
You sure are...we will miss you this summer, perhaps even more than during the school year, as summer is our time to play, but are excited to watch you tackle the next set of adventures. Happy 21st Birthday, Nicole Elizabeth! I think I will accessorize today with that beautiful anklet from so many years ago...