I went home and pinned it to the bulletin board in my growing-up bedroom. Now, ten years later, it hangs on the bulletin board in my little duplex 250 miles from where Allie and I grew up side-by-side.
Her sunshine collage is one of the first things I see every day when I hear my alarm, rub my eyes, sit up in bed. Where I live, Allie's sun lives. And that's good, because I like to think that maybe it transfers a bit of her sunlight into me.
It's her birthday today, and I celebrate her authenticity, her beauty, her shine.
Allie is courageous, conscientious. She bubbles over with enthusiasm, loves a good adventure, never shies away from something new. She loves the outdoors, forests and mountains and everything in between, and has spent summers working at Boy Scout camps, building muscle and fortitude, backpacking for days at a time, bringing her joy to the trails. She's self-sufficient, knowledgeable. Once, she took me on a tour of her college campus and pointed to each tree, naming its species.
Allie is kind, compassionate. She is a great storyteller and an even better listener. When you sit next to her and talk, it's clear from her body language - her eyes, her nods, her hand on your shoulder - that she is trying to reach your heart. She bursts out with happiness, but sits with quiet just as well. She overflows with deep and genuine love for her family and friends, she possesses loyalty in abundance. Everyone knows her, not because she's notorious, but because she is loved. I still have a handwritten letter she gave me simply saying what she loved about me.
Allie is intentional, focused. She knows herself, devotes her time to things and people that matter to her. She says no when she needs to, stays true to what she needs. She jogs during the week, trains for races, sticks to her schedule and her health. She worked hard at a hard job for nearly two years, in a small place where she knew no one, and she learned, she persevered, she let herself have that experience. Now, she's a teacher at the school where she was once a student, and she loves it, and she's perfect for it. And right now, she's in Ecuador for 10 days as a teaching assistant, working with college students to explore the sociology of developing nations. Her purpose always moves her forward, deeper into the world, into her passion.
Allie is creative, fun. She learned to sew, to play African drums and guitar - she helped teach me folk music, when I think of her I think of Indigo Girls and Old Crow. She loves to dance and sing. In youth group, she and I were in charge of music and worship, and we had the best time picking and singing songs, brainstorming, thinking of different ways that worship could be. We have sung onstage, around campfires, in the car, on walks, anywhere, and I am grateful. She's pulled pranks, skinny-dipped, gotten muddy, splashed through creeks, rolled down hillsides. She sees the beauty in the mess. She meets the world with an embrace.
It's only fitting that she was born into the season of blossom and light.
Happy birthday, my A!