To my dearest Molly,
By the time you’re old enough to read this I will have already told you about one of my favorite short stories called “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. You know, the one about the fourteen-year-old boy who lives in a world where everything is fair for everyone because smart people wear buzzing earphones and pretty people wear ugly masks and athletic people wear weighted bags. No one has to feel inferior or cheated because everyone is superbly average.
I will have also explained to you (because you drew the short straw, honey, and were born to an English teacher) that this seemingly perfect society is actually something called a dystopia and that Vonnegut’s real message is this: “fair” isn’t quite as lovely as it seems.
I’m going to be straightforward with you. This letter is a glorified excuse. It’s a way to make myself feel better about filling the pages of Savannah’s baby book and leaving yours untouched, each sheet a barren wasteland of white space and chirping crickets. I’m sorry for doing the one thing I swore I would never do when we found out we were having you; I’m sorry for not giving you everything we gave your sister.
If you ask Daddy, he’ll tell you I’ve always been worried about this. When you turned six months old, for instance, I realized that you didn’t own a single stuffed animal (even though Savannah had a toy box full of them). Frantic and guilt-ridden, I immediately jumped online and ordered you Ellie.
Example two. We have professional photos of your sister at three months, six months, nine months, and a year and they’re lovely and sorted and labeled because back then I wasn’t outnumbered.
Your pictures? Newborn and six months.
Oh, the guilt.
But can I tell you a secret?
You have a mother who remembers every miraculous moment of your birth and two parents who kind of know what they’re doing, which means no stray nickels or electric cords for you to put in your mouth (hooray!). You have an older sister who provides you with infinite entertainment and hand-me-down clothes that you can (and do) cover in oatmeal without anyone trying to stop the fun that is mashed food. You have a house full of tea sets and baby dolls and “Fancy Nancy” books to feast on whenever new teeth come in and pretested baby-proofed cabinets that won’t pinch your chubby little fingers.
Can I tell you another secret?
Your sister didn’t have any of this.
So while you may not own a publish-worthy baby book, I hope you know that you possess a lot of really cool things.
There’s a reason the world in Vonnegut’s story is called a dystopia. Someone attempts to make everything fair and that attempt goes terribly wrong, completely wiping out what I so love about you and your sister – individuality.
You’re not your sister and your sister isn’t you and I’m doing you no favors by trying to act otherwise.
Still, I’m sorry about the baby book.
Love … Mom