Maybe it is because I’m a writer, but ever since I’ve been a mom—or at least, ever since I came out of the post-partum haze of will-I-survive-this and why-does-anyone-have-more-than-one-child chaos—I’ve wanted to write everything down. For you.
And by “everything,” I mean everything. Everything about me, about you, about the world, about your grandparents, the important things in life, love, loss, brokenness, joy, good books, beauty, creativity, sacrament.
It’s ridiculous. And ambitious. Impossible. Overwhelming.
Not that I don’t write a lot, trying to take a stab at this “everything.” I do. I jot notes, mostly, notes and bullet points and sentences and paragraphs, things that are important that someday I can flesh out a bit more, someday when we aren’t in survival mode, aren’t fighting pink eye, aren’t dealing with diapers and potty training, aren’t picking goldfish out of the carpet.
Those somedays probably won’t come.
I realize this.
But I also realize something else—there is a sense in which everything I write and live and do already is a letter to my daughters.
I have a journal for each of you where I write notes about what you’re doing, how you’re growing, the funny things you say, when your teeth come in and you crawl and walk and faceplant. So those are letters to you. Real letters. You’ll read them some day.
But those poems I write? I think they are letters to you, too. Even the poem about the man in the coffee shop who reminded me of a piano player we knew in Texas, the poem about slicing open an avocado, the chamomile poem that became an epigraph for my friend’s novel—someday you will read these poems and others and yes, I really think so: they are letters.
When I highlight in the Richard Foster book I’m teaching in that Wednesday night class at church, when I jot notes in the margins, these are letters to you, too, aren’t they? They would be, at least, if I were gone and you were looking through my things.
I remember my mom looking through her mom’s Bible after she passed away, and the same for my dad, looking through his dad’s Bible, and they talked about what their parents had underlined, poring over it, wondering about it. Will you read through the verses I’ve underlined? Will they be meaningful to you? Will you wonder about me and my conviction and my pain and my joy?
Or, creases on the binding of my favorite books—will you look at those pages some day?
Splashes of food on the recipes in my cookbooks? A note about adding extra broccoli or one-and-a-half-ing the cake batter to make a layer cake?
The handprint Jesse Tree we made this year that hangs on the back of the basement door?
And what about those things I hang onto? So many things. In closets and drawers and boxes in the basement. Old T-shirts I save that are steeped in memory–races I’ve run, theatre productions of your dad’s, second-hand-thrift-store-thread-bare T-shirts from high school. That collection of old Pyrex bowls, my grandma’s glass bell, our wedding quilt. The index card love notes your dad used to hide in my things when he went out of town.
It matters to me that you’ll “read” these things some day. I think about it and about what you’ll discover and learn and love.
So, daughters, while I’ll keep jotting those ambitious notes about the important things in life, keep hoping that someday, someday I’ll write even more, I’ll also just keep living life.
Because I have this crazy hunch that life, all of it, is itself a letter.