Dear Cierra and Spencer,
You have seen me writing for long hours, perhaps never anticipating that I was writing to you, but I have been. First to me, and then to you. Now in the silent, empty hours of your long flights from home, I find comfort in telling you stories that life didn’t afford with all the dinners, deadlines, homework assignments, performances, and travel while you still lived at home. I’ve attempted to discover, first for myself and then for you, life’s wisdom and humor hoping that the messy parts will one day make sense too.
This is my version of the story. It is not more real or more valuable or more anything than your father’s…or yours or any one else’s for that matter. It is mine and I will tell it the way I know. Likewise, I hope you will have the courage to tell your own version someday.
Parents can be baffling. Ian Cron wrote about this so eloquently in his memoir, Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me:
“Our parents are mysteries to us. No matter how close we think we are to them, we cannot know the content of their hearts. We don’t know the disappointments, or the scars and regrets that wake them in the night, or the moments for which they wish they could get a do-over. I’m not persuaded we should know them better than that.”
Of course, we have secrets held close to our chests; most will be forgotten by life’s end, I imagine. Meanwhile, I want to tell my slant as truthfully as I can, with as much redemption as possible. And yes, it is storytelling with all the tricks and gimmicks of the craft, but always with my desire to write true.
Again, I say: I hope one day you’ll read the books on my shelves to know the voices woven into my woof and weave, who’ve helped shape and inform my greatest passions. And now, I want you to read the books I’ve written in my own voice too! But to really know me, you must sit across a table laden with good food and drink with your “aunties” and “uncles” and your grandmothers, there you’ll know best the source of my laughter, my desire for adventure and celebration of people within the adventure even if it was on a seemingly ordinary day.
When you kids left home, flying so far as you did, I would go days without laughter or celebration. I never knew such grief. You have always been the light of my life. My regrets are for the times that I over worked trying to prove to myself that I had worth, trying my damn-dest to contribute my fair share—usually to be met with more disappointment. But you, you two were my delight. When other mothers carried tired and worn looks on their faces after hours of being with their children, I feasted on you; I drank you in. Always your biggest fan, I am fairly sure that I made out like a bandit while others did the heavy lifting of raising you.
When you were little babies I looked around and whispered to myself, “Where is your mother? I really do need her.” What I meant was, “Where is my mother, I really need her right now.” I don’t know how to do this. Other cultures don’t find themselves in this stupid, lonely predicament. But with your help, I grew into your mother. You taught me as we went along. And I promise to do everything in my power to be there to help parent yours.
God knows, carrying a child in your womb for nine months does not prepare one to care for and relinquish your all-encompassing love for a child.
I first began writing so that I wouldn’t forget our stories—so I wouldn’t forget you or me. I was very sick and that possibility was a real and dangerous threat. Now I know that writing has helped me not only to remember, but to see more clearly in the first place. Writing allows us to awaken, makes us more attentive–photographers looking through a camera lens waiting patiently for just the right shot; painters studying their subject with great care before putting brush to canvas.
I’m going back and reclaiming what is mine–what is ours–what we can let go, picking through the rubble of human memory looking for what was almost lost, tucking the best parts between pages, freeing us to venture out, explore, and dream new dreams.