The Seventh Letter: Patchouli & Typewriters

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Dear Daughters,

After a long and difficult week, today I saw my reflection in the car window while picking up our Thai food takeout and I cringed just a little bit. I was wearing my favorite winter jacket—a circa 1978 reddish brown leather jacket with a faux fur collar, courtesy of your dad’s mom, my mother-in-law. Back in 1978, it was a gift from your Papa when uncle Ryan was born. Since she is tall and I am tall, it fits me better than pretty much any coat I’ve ever owned.

Did I mention the faux fur? It pretty much rocks.

There I was sporting this ridiculously retro jacket and my boots and skinny jeans, and I was carrying Thai food takeout—most of it with tofu in it—and I had my giant sunglasses on, and I was about to crawl into our 1999 Volvo stationwagon.

It was, well, so perfectly cliché in a typewriter-in-the-living-room-next-to-the-MacBook hipster kind of way.

Or at least that’s how it felt until I got to our friends’ house with the takeout and I got to eat my pineapple fried rice with tofu, no spice, thank you. And the toddler picked out all of the tofu from her plate to eat it first because it’s her favorite part. (She calls it toe-food.) And we cracked open some homemade dill pickles to have on the side and cheddar cheese, because everything is better with chunks of cheese. And we laughed and joked and loved with our best friends after all of us had survived a terrible, no good, very bad week.

It wasn’t cliché, girls. Not then. It was life.

Over the holidays I was able to visit with one of my favorite cousins. He and his wife are the sort of cool people I have always wanted to be, even back when we were all teenagers together. They wore patchouli before I even knew what patchouli was and shopped at vintage clothing stores. She was the first young person I knew with a tattoo and had a bleachy streak in her hair. They went to college in San Diego. They are awesome people.

As I hugged him hello, he still smelled like patchouli.

No joke.

They live in small-town Pennsylvania now and homeschool their kids; he’s an art teacher at the public school; they talk about nitrate-free bacon.

Maybe because I have always wanted to be like them—free spirits and yet somehow grounded, passionate, and fun—when I catch myself actually being like them, I feel like maybe I’m an imposter.

An imposter with my fair trade coffee and chlorine-free diapers and homemade babyfood.

An imposter with my second-hand clothing and compost bin and church that has a community garden.

An imposter with my retro pyrex bowl collection and arm-knit infinity scarf and, yes, typewriter we pulled out of your grandparents’ barn.

But at other times, most of the time, really, I feel at home in my skin, in my clothes, in my car, at home eating our tofu Thai food around our second-hand dining room table. With friends. Always with friends.

On those days when I don’t feel like an imposter, don’t care that on the outside I look like a hipster cliché, that, for goodness sake, I really think that typewriter is beautiful, I realize this, this is who I want to be.

So, girls, I guess what I want to say to you today is this:

Be who you are. Love people. Care about what matters.

Don’t worry about the rest.

You know, I’ve been thinking—I don’t wear patchouli, but I might start. It smells like earth and happiness.

And life.

Real, lived life.

Your Momma