Every year for her birthday, I write my daughter a letter. I email it to an email account with the intent of giving the screen name/password to her when she is older. Her birthday was last Thursday–so I’m a little late in posting this…
You turn 7 this year. We recently had a parent teacher conference where your teachers spent most of the time marveling at your kindness, your loving mission to help others & how empathetic you are. It made my heart so happy to hear your most beautiful asset being recognized, appreciated. The fact is you’ve always had a prodigal heart…a heart that spends foolishly on a sometimes ugly world….a heart that radiates gamma rays of oxytocin. Your heart is both Gatsby and the green light across the water—the extravagant party thrower for people you don’t even know & the symbol of an unwavering belief in love.
I think about the note you gave me a couple weeks ago. For a couple months this fall and early winter, I was treading water in a deep blue lake of depression…struggling to not to take in water. This dark season was just days and days of trying to doggy paddle back to a shoreline, to you & your brother. Swimmers who are fatigued will often say “I have no feel”-it’s the same with depression. Occasionally, despite my efforts, I would go under briefly. The only proof of your mother’s presence being fragile air bubbles rising up & popping on the glassy surface above me, my promise to return to you…In your charitable mercy, you never angered at me for the sad ballet I performed in the undertow, you just loved me and showed you were happy to see me when I washed up on the shore next to you, gasping for air & ready to live again.
One night during this difficult time, you were crying over losing your hair bow. I tried to comfort you, reason with you-but all the verbal chamomile & lavender in the world didn’t work. The reserve ran out. You continued to cry, and in a moment of frustrated ignition, I snapped at you, told you that it was just a hair bow, that you needed to toughen up. I didn’t mean it, but it came flying out of my mouth like an unkindness of ravens. Even writing this, I am bathed in regret & shame over the words I chose to say to you in that moment. I apologized to you later, telling you I was sorry and I was wrong, that I love how your sensitivity is a passport to your precious heart & I could learn a lot from you. You told me, “But, Mom, you’re perfect.” I told you I was most definitely NOT perfect, far from it. You responded by saying, “I know, but you’re the perfect mom for me.” I went in the bathroom so you wouldn’t see me cry…I just don’t have your superpowers for being open & vulnerable, kiddo.
A little bit later you handed me a note. It is the best message you have ever given me…besides those double pink lines on that pregnancy test, your first hello.
This is my response to that note, Bridget Claire:
I love you exactly as you are. You are strong because you continue to feel every single thing that runs through you so intensely and still choose to love. Not everything can withstand that kind of lightning…but you? You are the ultimate conductor and I WISH I possessed your strength, instead of being singed and marked by the currents of others. (Even as I write these words, I find them inadequate…like I’m using milquetoast adjectives to describe the splendor of a firework.) But B? You are the human form of the dreams I had for contributing something amazing to this world. In the end, it wasn’t a book or a poem or a song…it was you.
You know, even as I write this letter—I keep thinking about how when you were a newborn baby in the hospital, I kissed your fingers & toes repeatedly to seal your magic in. I was so afraid the world “out there” would ruin you by hurting you…I didn’t count on you wanting to save that same world, by loving it into a better place, one person at a time. Thank you for starting with me