***

Dear Mom,

Remember that year you warned me for the hundredth time that if you caught me peeking at my Christmas presents again, I would wake up on Christmas morning and none of them would be wrapped?

Remember when I chose to peek anyway and you caught me?

Remember how I woke up Christmas morning, and as my siblings excitedly unwrapped their gifts with the element of surprise lingering over each one, I sadly gathered up my new alarm clock (exposed), my Cabbage Patch Kid horse (exposed)… my dented dignity (exposed). 

You told me that when I peeked at Christmas gifts, it hurt you. You told me that you put so much joy, time and effort into getting all of our gifts (and there were four of us, so that was no easy feat!).  You told me that I stole your reward of seeing the surprise and excitement. 

***

Remember when I was about eight years old and you had ordered a new necklace for yourself? It was a timepiece that switched plate colors and patterns.  Remember when it arrived, I couldn’t stop admiring it and, seeing how much I loved it, you told me that if I did chores around the house, you would eventually order me one, too?  I went straight to the kitchen and immediately started doing the dishes.

Remember when my matching necklace came? How excited and proud I was to have something like yours!

Do you remember how, a few weeks later, you were at the kitchen table – helping me with my homework?  I was so incredibly sad and could barely look at you. You asked me what was wrong – and I just silently shook my head. And then, after a few more minutes of silence, you asked me if I had a secret. I nodded as tears rolled down my face. You told me that secrets were terrible things to keep, especially when they made us sad. And you told me I never had to keep secrets. I burst out crying and admitted that I had accidentally broken my new necklace and I felt so terrible, because it was new and you had ordered it especially for me. 

Do you remember telling me it was just a necklace – and then hugging me and saying how sad you were that I felt so alone with a secret? 

***

Remember when I entered the teen years and I would get angry with my friends, and I would come home grumbling about so and so being so and so. Do you remember how you stayed silent? Do you remember waiting until I finished my rant and then calmly saying, “Well, what’s your part in this?”  

I quickly learned that you were my mom first and, though you were my biggest fan, you were not my peer.

***

Do you remember my horrible twenties? Do you remember watching me repeatedly struggle to find my way? The terrible mistakes I made, over and over. Do you remember them all? Do you remember the lies I would tell myself and then try to tell you? Do you remember cheering my (small) attempts at success – while quietly accepting my failures?

Do you remember watching it all – yet never giving up on me? Ever.

***

You have taught me so many lessons purely from your actions.  Consideration, compassion, personal responsibility, patience and pure love.

From the start, we should have known I’d be a bit of trouble. I came into this world ass-backwards (literally… breech). I was delivered by a nurse, because your doctor showed up drunk. I brought chaos from the start and I carried that theme for quite some time. 

I look at you and all you’ve done for me, and I hope I was worth all the pain. (And I’m not just talking about that epidural-free breech birth.) I look at my daughters now, and I don’t know how you survived me. The anxiety, the fear… the love.  I don’t know how you stepped back and let me grow – and then fall – and then grow – all on repeat. Over and over. For years.

I don’t know how you had such faith in me for all that time – when I had lost all faith in myself. 

You are good through and through. 

And you never, ever stopped being the biggest cheerleader to all of us.  You still haven’t.

You like to tell me how small my hands were when I was little – how you can still feel them holding onto yours. Whenever I grab Ivy’s hand to hold, I think of you. 

I think of your hands. 

And I can still feel them holding mine – from so many miles away. 

Love,

Jenni