The Forty-Third Letter: I’m H-A-P-P-Y


Dear Daughters,

The baby girl has begun announcing in the morning that she’s happy.

It always sounds out of the blue: we get you out of your crib, we change your diaper, try to tame the bedhead, and then you snuggle with one of us and announce, “I’m happy.”

I think it’s because you’ve heard us say, “She woke up happy today.” But it might also be because your grandma taught you a song that goes like this: “I’m H-A-P-P-Y, I’m H-A-P-P-Y, I know I am, I’m sure I am, I’m H-A-P-P-Y.” And then it ends with a shout: “HAPPY!”

It’s sung to the tune of “The B-I-B-L-E,” and honestly, it’s kind of annoying.

But we sing it. A lot.

And now you tell us every morning that you are happy, which, I’ll confess, is really sweet.

This morning, I was writing a newsy e-mail to some friends I haven’t seen in a long time. I was listing the various things I’ve been up to, the various things we’ve been up to as a family. When it’s all typed out, you know what? It sounds pretty impressive, like I do lots of cool stuff. I’m doing this copyediting and that writing, I’ve been making art about this and that, I’ve read this book and that book, and am involved in this activity here and that activity at church, and we went on this trip and that trip, and I’ve been running a lot. Literally and figuratively. Ha. The list of All The Things We Do was so long.

And then, I’ll confess, I wanted to write this:

And yet, somehow, it feels like all I ever do is hang laundry and wash dishes.

Because that’s the truth. That’s what it feels like.

Many days, the drudgery of the days outweighs the beauty of the days.

If I let it.

But there is so much beauty here. I can’t say that enough.

I have to say it in these letters, I have to say it to you, for you to read someday, because I doubt I’ll remember it.

I have a hard time remembering it from day to day.

There is beauty here, if I look for it. And I am happy.

A friend of mine has three children, the oldest heading into kindergarten. I had you girls at about the same time she had her youngest two. We were pregnant at the same time both times. Sometimes I look at her–she takes all three children to the grocery store at the same time! she has driven all three children by herself to places in other states!–and I think, how does that woman do it? How does she ever leave her house? How does she remain sane?

And then I see friends who have children and work outside the home full time, and they appear put-together and organized–showered and everything!–and we have conversations suggesting they get a lot more accomplished than I do in a given day, and I just don’t know how they do it.

I don’t know how they do it.

Sometimes I look at my friends without children, or those who aren’t married, and think they are living the life. Such freedom! Such motivation! Such achievers! They are changing the world, making a difference I can point to.

I know, I know. You can’t ever know what it’s like to be someone else. And it’s so ridiculous to try.

Here’s another clothespin, by the way. I’m standing here in 90-degree weather, dripping with sweat, hanging up a heavy, wet T-shirt on the line.

Another mom-of-three friend of mine has a chronic illness. She inspires me every time I talk to her. But last week, she told me how amazing I was. Me! I forget why. I think maybe I told her about trying to write a poem a day for the month of June. She’s in my writing group. She told me she was amazed at everything I was able to get done.

Me. She told me this.

My college roommate once told me she thought I was “living the life.” This woman has a decidedly amazing job and lives downtown in a major city. How can I compare with that? I was making zucchini bread when we were talking on the phone, and I was telling her about my Artists Way class, and the art I was making,, and that’s when she said it.

Say what?

What I do is not amazing, I wanted to say.

I am not living the life, I wanted to say.

All I do is hang laundry and wash dishes, remember?

But GIRLS. That of course isn’t true.

Your mom is amazing.

Our life is amazing.

There is such beauty here.

I’m H-A-P-P-Y.

I get to make art and read books. I get to write and sneak your watercolors when you aren’t watching. I get to make a cup of tea (or three) and do my freelance work in my pajamas if I want to. I get to snuggle with you and get the icepack out when you fall once again and bonk your head on the little desk in the living room. I get to teach you to say, “May I please have one minute?” instead of “NO!” when I tell you it is time for quiet time. I get to answer your incredible questions–how does a giraffe sleep? what holds our bodies together?–and let you listen to my heart with your pretend stethoscope.

And, well, I get to hang laundry. A lot of laundry.

But I’m happy.

And pretty tan from all that time in the sun.


Your Momma