Theo: Who’s ‘they’?
Mabel (on the potty): Mama! My wees are so loud! Like a snake!
Mabel: Why are tomatoes so complicated?
You were running around your room, which we had spent all day tidying. We’d picked up and packed away. We’d reorganised your furniture. You told me what should go where and we moved it together; ’1, 2, 3 heave!’ your contribution.
You tripped and fell, after spinning in circles on the floor now free for spinning circles. Your pyjama pants half way up your legs, got under foot and down you went with them. Your upper lip, much more made for kisses, took the impact on the frame of your bed.
I knew instantly how badly you had hurt yourself, because of your cry. A blush of purple bruise will tell us tomorrow. Your held your little hand to your face. That feeling of disbelief that something could be so painful; that you were still intact.
I sat cross-legged, where moments before you had been turning, your arms in the air. And I scooped you up and held you to me, your body still fitting in my lap, though these days you spill over the sides. And I said what I say. Sshhhhh. Sshhhhh. You’re okay. I’m here.
I told you I could hear in your voice how much you were hurting.
Your brother, after you had fallen asleep; once you’d calmed down, and I’d turned off the light and sung all our songs; bumped his head on the rail of your bunk beds, and got upset. And I said what I say. Sshhhhh. Sshhhhh. You’re okay. I’m here with you.
And I told him I could hear in his voice that he wasn’t too hurt.
So this is to say, to both of you; as all these letters are, even if they’re are addressed to the other; I have heard all your cries. I have been here. I am here. I am right here with you. And I am listening.
I am always here to listen. No matter what you are feeling; how big or how small. When you can only say one thing, because you mean something else, but the something else won’t come out how, or though, you mean it. Or you haven’t found the words quite yet. Or when, really, all you are looking to hear is that you matter, too, and just as much, and as much as ever. Or because sometimes you can’t believe how painful it is; or that you are still intact.
I will be there. I will be right there with you. I will hear in your voice how much you are hurting, and I will drop everything.
I love you,
One of my most vivid memories of you was when I told you I was pregnant with our son.
‘So, you wanna have a baby with me?’ ‘…When?’ ‘Oh, about 9 months?’
We were laying in bed, some otherwise toneless morning, in a tumbledown dive on the right side of town. We were so young. We’d yet to meet one another’s families. We weren’t sure where we were heading in our lives, but we sure hoped it was together.
A year to the day we met, Theo was born. And 15 months later, came Mabel.
We lived together and got a puppy. You went back to school. I stayed home with the baby. You began your career. I stayed home with the babies.
We mended what fell apart, as best we could. As best we knew how to. Though it proved not enough to keep things together.
We were 23 when I first saw you across a crowded room.
And you are 29 now, as I write this from a room crowded with life of a different kind.
Our children are outside right now. You wouldn’t believe it, but they’re talking about Bob Dylan. ‘Do you like Bob Dylan?’ ‘Yeah! Do you like Bob Dylan?’ ‘Yeah!’. We made some beautiful music together, you and I. It’s dancing all over us. It’s holding the tune while we find a new rhythm. And we are. We will.
Happy birthday. May the radio play all your songs.
There’s always a space on my dance card for you.
It’s been a busy month. Mae’s birthday. My birthday. I’m 29 now. I’d had you both by 25.
I never thought of my self as a particularly young mother. You just came when it was your time to. I had always been the first of my friends to do things; go overseas; have a 9-5; buy a home; start a family. So even though, looking around me, there was no one I knew doing what I was doing, I was used to that. You find your own way. The only thing you are obligated to do, is to find something beautiful in living. To take the chances to find out who you really are. Just do things how they feel best to you. Your Aunty once told me, ‘just find what you can do, and do it how it needs to be done’. I think that’s good advice.
Your journey is not comparative to anyone else’s, though we all begin and end in the same place. Remember, they say comparison is the thief of joy, because it’s true – nothing will ever feel as good as when you think you’re doing a good job; heading in the right direction; being your best. You have such a talent for happiness. Keep it with you. When you feel sad, which you will, hopefully from time to time and not all the time, though that can happen too, happiness can feel like it takes so much energy. But I have seen you, watched you everyday since you first arrived here, and I can assure you, happiness comes naturally to you.
You’re so good at happiness, I was initially just happy simply by association with you. And though there’s been such cause for sadness, your faces, our time together, your loveliness, your liveliness, has been the light that I have set sail for until I reached the shore. You have made me sure of so much; my self, my decisions, my ability to sustain my own contentment. You personified my happiness, gave it a face and a name and brought it to me everyday. You remind me what happiness is. Now I’d recognise it anywhere.
You woke me up before dawn:-
Mabel: ‘Happy New Year! You are a dog! Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome a brand new Otto! This is great! You are so much fun, Mama!’
Theo: ‘Mama, why can’t cows walk down stairs?’
I discovered you, both in the butter at the bench; Theo wiping it off Mae’s shirt with a cloth, and Mae thanking him.
I found you arguing; M: You can’t share my birthday, Theo! It’s my choice!
You yelled at me:-
Theo: ‘Did you say QUIET?’
Mabel: ‘YOU’RE MY HAPPY PLACE!’
You broke my heart:-
Mabel: ‘I’m sad because I’m not somebody. I’m just me.’
You made me laugh:-
Mabel: ‘My dreams are so much fun! My hot dog is so much fun! I’m so much fun!’
Theo: ‘Is this a home sweet home?’
Theo: ‘Who is Bonnie Prince Billy and did he die?’
You advised me:-
Theo: ‘Just breathe, Mama!’
You made my heart swell:-
Mabel: ‘I look beautiful in the mirror’.
Theo: ‘Mama! I couldn’t wait to tell you! I had a crazy dream about noodles!
Aside from everything you utter, one of my favourite passages came to me, tucked up in bed, always reading. It’s from Camus.
“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”
Remember your invincible summer.
Remember you’re my invincible summer.
L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stele,
Happy Birthday Darling.
I gave birth to you at the foot of my bed. Kneeling on the floor with your Grandmother in a headlock. At both of your births, the strength of her presence has been what assured me I could do it. She cut your cord and your Aunty came in. ‘Look! I did it!’ I told her, a sister I chose some 7 years earlier, when she hung over the fence separating our houses and tapped a bottle of Tequila on my window, at 8am, while I was eating my breakfast. This time we celebrated with a cup of tea.
Everyone went out soon after, I remember. The midwife packed and left. Your brother bundled off with your daddy, sent in search of pastries. Your Aunty doing the washing. Your Grandmother hurried home to tell your Pappous, in Greece, that you were finally here. I sat with you on the couch, in the sun, and remember feeling as if the house had never been so full. The room was you. It always is.
You told me recently, as we were sitting on the same couch in the same sun, that I was your best hero ever. That I was like something off the television. And it was about the best compliment of my life. But then, that’s how I feel about you. That you are my daughter is one of the best things about me. And I don’t know exactly how these things work; if you chose me or I chose you, or if it’s all simply chance, but I do know, whatever it was, it got things exactly right with you and me.
I don’t know if I could ever tell you completely, how sweet you are. How you arrived in my life and completed something in me. Some search I had been on, without map or compass. You arrived and, set in my arms, came stillness. And from that stillness a quiet strength has at last had chance to make a home in me, to take a hold in me.
And I don’t know exactly if that strength that we find, comes from other people; a love that they show us, or that someone like them could believe in someone like you. Or if it just comes at certain times in your life, when you find the right light, and everything is revealed to you as simply greater than it was before. I just know that it happens.
It’s how I came to know, what people mean when they say, you’re the best thing that ever happened to me.
You’re my best hero ever.