The Ninety-Eighth Letter: Seasons Change

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Dear Daughters,

I probably overuse the word “season.” Seasons of the calendar year. Seasons of the church year. Seasons of life. Seasons of parenting. TV shows. Growing seasons. Canning seasons.

Repetition. Change. Growth. Death. Winter. Advent. New Life. Planting. Premieres. Easter. Sowing. Learning to read. Summer. Harvesting. Finales. Canning. Frost. Fall. Repetition.

Yes, I do love that seasons change. I’m especially partial to autumn and all of its cliched crispness in the air and stunning leaves. Even the satiny red leaves of our sweet gum tree out front almost make up for the annoying sweet gum nuts that litter our driveway the whole year long.

Seasons change, and some seasons come back around, but we’re never quite the same as we were the last time through.

That encourages me.

I mentioned in my last letter that I was recently asked to share about my faith journey and vocation by a professor friend who teaches theology at our local college. When I asked her what she was expecting from me during the hour I was to share, she mentioned that I might want to read some of my writing and display some art.

The art part was relatively easy to decide, especially because I knew I wanted to share the logos and graphics I’ve designed for local organizations. (That fits into vocation, right?)

But the writing part wasn’t as obvious to me as I started sifting through the myriad places my writing about vocation exists: on my computer, in notebooks of all sorts, in these letters, of course, in the collection of poetry your dad and I published last year.

I started reading and reading and reading.

And, I’ll be honest, what I should read to the class didn’t become much more clear.

What did become clear was just how quickly seasons can change.

When I started writing letters to you online, I was working through a lot of issues related to mothering and vocation and survival. I was just beginning my creative journey and hadn’t started making art yet. I was in my early thirties but trying to figure a lot of things out. I was dissatisfied but probing. And I certainly would have never imagined the life I have now, especially the homeschooling part of it. I even wrote an early letter about how excited I was for you to be going to school some day. That I would rejoice to see you go.

This was only four years ago, girls.

In the poems I skimmed, I uncovered so much wonder and hope, conviction and transformation, grief and anxiety. I have poems from before you were born, often saved in Word documents in a monthly file I used to email to my writing group. I have poems of pregnancy, poems of labor and delivery. I see glimpses of both of you as babies in those words, a life deep with metaphor even in those exhausting, mind-numbing months of postpartum haze. Your own growing vocabulary and ability is sprinkled throughout many of the poems, too, as well as references to the toys strewn across the floor, so many cups of tea, my Pyrex bowls, and our fixer-upper house. There are lots of poems about your dad, and also poems about relatives we’ve lost over the last decade.

Through it all, girls, I can trace my growing appreciation for what life is now, in this current season.

This current season.

And I am grateful that seasons change.

That you didn’t stay babies, for example. (I mean, I’m seriously grateful on that one.)

That I’ve released a lot of the weight I initially felt about mothering and the cynicism I felt about others who seemed to find holiness here.

That I now call myself an artist and a writer and not feel awkward about it.

That my life is full to the brim with vocation and meaning.

In rereading my own words, I can recognize how I myself have changed in both ordinary and extraordinary ways.

There was a time when I couldn’t manage to take you both to the grocery store at the same time, but I now know I can single-parent on airplane flights and 10-hour road trips.

Girls, I wonder sometimes how you will remember this season of life, what glimpses you’ll remember from childhood that will carry you through later seasons. I can’t know, of course.

But I do know that at least you’ll have these letters.

Love,

Your Momma

 

 

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The Twenty-Fifth Letter: Boom Boxes & What I Can’t Imagine

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Dear Daughters,

One of your lift-the-flap children’s books features a boom box hidden behind two cabinet doors. I honestly don’t know why. The book is nonsensical: under the pillow flap is a banana, for example. It’s silly.

When we lift those flaps to reveal the boom box, I’m never quite sure what to say. “There’s the boom box…radio…music-playing thing,” I trail off.

You don’t know what a boom box is. Obviously.

Though we are hipster enough to play music on a record player occasionally, we primarily stream it on our “devices.”

Back in the 90s, I had a boom box in my bedroom as a teenager. It had a double cassette player and a CD player. I used it to make mix tapes for your dad when we dated in college.

Believe it or not, our 1999 Volvo station wagon has a working cassette player in it. That feels comforting to me. We still have those mix tapes.

My point is this: I’m not very old.

This was not very long ago.

I wrote a poem once about saving a set of encyclopedias for you, despite their obsolescence. Because I loved encyclopedias growing up, loved their pictures, loved the feeling of research. I still do.

In seventh grade, we learned how to write a research paper. It involved reference books and card catalogs and hand-written notecards.

We couldn’t even imagine a world of the Internet.

This was not very long ago.

I was the first of my friends to have a cell phone in high school, and all it did was make calls. I remember my dad’s first car phone, with a huge bag of cords inside on the floor and a giant magnetic antennae outside.

We couldn’t even imagine a world of tweeting and texting, weather apps and Amazon video, Facetiming and asking Siri how to roast pumpkin seeds–all on our phones.

This was not very long ago.

My high school graduation present was a 35 mm camera.

The learn-to-type games we played as kids came on floppy disks. The actual bendy kind.

I was incredulous that wi-fi was a thing when I first heard about it, was confused when USB drives came around, and thought “Twitter” was one of the lamest words I’d ever heard.

This was not very long ago.

It’s not like I lived through the transition to automobiles from the horse-drawn carriage, girls. Nothing that drastic.

Except maybe more drastic.

Because the world has gotten so much smaller in the last thirty years. And also bigger.

Our lives are more public and we’re also more capable of keeping our real selves hidden. We’ve gotten more vulnerable and also more equipped to rally and proclaim. We’ve gotten stronger voices and also more polarizing discourse. We’ve come to expect a diversity of choices and are also more dependent on a global economy. We have so much knowledge at our fingertips and also learn about news instantaneously, errors in reporting and all.

It’s inspiring and frightening, these changes.

I can’t imagine the next thirty years. How can I?

I can’t imagine what life will be like for you. How can I?

In the 1990s, a boom box was pretty amazing.

As I type this, the two of you are watching a PBS show on the iPad about dinosaurs. (For the record, even the dinosaur names have changed since I was a child.) The toddler already knows how to turn off the iPad and begins to swipe the screen. You know which icon gets you to look at pictures, know that the little triangle in the middle of a screen means that a movie can play if you press it, know that talking to faraway grandparents means you get to see them. You even pretend to “text” with your phone toys.

What will life be like for you, girls?

I wonder about it, and I’ll be honest:

It frightens me sometimes.

It gives me hope sometimes.

Sometimes even at the same time.

But I try to focus on the hope part.

You are watching PBS, after all, not princesses. That’s hopeful.

Love,

Your Momma