A Love Letter To My Children…… #1

Dear Baby,
Yes, I called you baby. I know that you are growing up, know that you probably won’t even read this until you are mostly all grown up, but you are still my baby. You will always be my baby. Always. So, dear baby, let’s begin.
There are things that you should know. Things I may have forgotten to tell you amidst all of the cooking and cleaning I seem to be doing these days. Things that I have told you, but that may have gotten lost in all the “Put your sweater on, it’s cold outside…..Don’t hit your sister……Pick up the legos off the stairs and put them away before I lose all feeling in my feet” that happens from day to day. So, let me say them again, on the hushed white quiet of these pages so that you can hear me.
I love you. I will always love you. No matter what. Regardless of what you do or don’t do, I love you. I am honored to be your Mommy. You are the greatest joy and hardest work of my life. And you are worth every minute. Being your mom is the best thing I have ever done. Yet, I have failed at times. I have cried when I was so angry that I didn’t know what else to do and didn’t want to break in you what had been broken in me as a child. I have made mistakes. I have apologized and asked you to forgive me, wondering if your little heart could really move on and let go of my failings, knowing that I could not forgive myself. And I have heard you, mimicking me, trying to understand the way that the world works. Seen you taking your steps both boldly and tenatively, in a dance of confidence and trusting the unknown.
I love you. I love your heart. I love your spirit. I love your quick mind. I love the way you look in sunlight, all lit up from the inside out. I love how your eyes are so full of wonder every Christmas morning. I love that my singing the Black-Eyed Peas ‘Mamamamamamama’ every diaper change paid off, and your first word was ‘Mama’. I love the way you run to me after school everyday. I love that you hold my hand with conviction still. I love that you join me in speaking with British accents at dinner because it makes our conversation seem brilliant. I love your voice. I love that you help others. I love that you think about things. I love that you jump in puddles. I love that you dance in the living room. I love that you always join me for dances in the rain. I love reading books to you after baths and jammies when you are warm and ready for sleep, but still clinging to the last tendrils of this day… I love you. I love you. I love you.

And I find that loving you, getting to be the one who holds you first every morning and hugs you last each night, is the very best part of each day.

Forever,
Your Mommy

My birthday….

So it’s that time of year, again…. it’s about to be my birthday. For a middle child who has always struggled with selfishness, this is no small occasion. Except, I’m getting older. Or maybe wiser. Probably both. And it’s got me thinking. Most people count their birthdays by what they received or what they did that year. I count my birthdays by who I spent it with. When you add it up that way, I have had a very blessed 32 birthdays.
My birthdays have been every shade from hot pink melodrama to sparkling white innocence, from slate gray angst to serene seafoam green. And that’s before you factor in the people. I have been blessed to have never spent my birthday alone. But the people I have spent the past 32 February 24ths with have changed dramatically. I hope they always will. As bittersweet as that feels, it means something. Life. Life is full of surprises. Just when I think I have reached some sweet spot where I am safe to stay, something happens on an overcast Tuesday, and I am thrown for a loop again. Friends die. They move away. They decide I am no longer worth the effort it takes to maintain our friendship. They meet someone in a coffee shop who makes them feel like they are who thay want to be, and quit calling until they find him in bed making someone else feel the same way. Or, worse, they just fade away. A day of not calling each other turns into weeks, which then turns into months of only talking via comments on facebook. And then, its a special day and you want them there, but you can’t remember the last time you hung out, and it feels awkward. So you do nothing. Because, you used to share everything.
I have a handfull of people in my life who have been with me since day one. It feels weird to call these people friends, but they are so much more than family. They are a walking history book of my life. They know where I come from, how I got here, and spur me on to where I should go. They are a tether of the most pleasant kind. And one I’ll not soon cut.
This year, I’ll be celebrating with different people from different places in my life over 4 days. Nothing extravagant but the people. Aren’t friends one of the best extravagances? People who you look at and see as worth fighting for, worth scheduling for, worth sacrificing for. God has been gracious to me. He has filled my life with people worth getting to know better, people whose stories are still being written, people who dance and laugh, who fight for children, who see the world in color, people who dare to hope. I am surrounded by people who have the courage to love. And so many of them, have chosen, against all odds, to love me. ME!
They have filled the empty spaces in my heart. They have given my children Aunties and Uncles and second sets of grandparents. They have caused me to know myself for more than what I see in the mirror. They have been the very best souveneirs from my travels in this life. They are the postcards of my past and the letters worth saving for the future. And I, I am so blessed. As I turn 33 in a few days, I am aware of all the ways my life has been marked by others. I am so grateful to have known the love that I have been so freely given. I am so grateful for the chance to give that love back. This year I celebrate that it’s people, not the years, that really matters.

The world in all its turning…

She was right. My mother. She was right. She told me again and again that the world does not revolve around me. I didn’t really know what that meant, I just knew that SHE said it, so it must be fought against. From the time I turned fourteen and on, I replied, “Well, it should….” defiantly each time she reminded me. This usually prompted anger and more cliches, “It’s not the Jessica show!”, for example.
It was the day he died that the truth of her words caught me, like an unseen rise in the curb snagging on a new pair of heels. And suddenly, I was falling, broken. We were driving home in a borrowed van, from my grandparents house three hours away. My Grandpa had just died that afternoon, minutes after I walked in the room and sat by his side. I felt it. There was no loud beeping, or proclamation from a doctor. I just felt him leave. Like he was walking out the door to get milk, or something, only this time he wasn’t coming back.
I remember my teenage self sitting in the back of that van, looking at all the other cars in amazement. People were coming and going, with no idea that the world had just changed. Laughing and talking in minivans, like nothing was wrong. I could not believe it. My chest sinking under the crushing weight of his absence, every part of me numb with those first cruel hours of grief, and people were oblivious.

I felt it again when I became a Mommy. Have felt it with all 5 of my children’s births, really. Looking out the window of some high rising hospital, in the soft blue hours between night and morning, holding a miracle to my breast. And in those tender moments, feeling my heart screaming against the cage of my chest that everything has changed. Theyarehere, theyarehere, theyarehere! And people walk by. Even nurses go on about their jobs, when my whole world will never be the same. Failing to notice that the most wonderful thing has happened, that my baby has come safely home to me and is actually in my arms!

It’s amazing, isn’t it? The amount of impact one life can have on others. We see it all the time. Both for good and evil. Who will notice when I am gone? What will I have done that lasts? I want so badly to make a difference. To make this world better while I am in it. The truth is, that this world will not stop, not for me. It will never revolve around the axis of Jessica,( thanks, Mom). But maybe, just maybe, I can make it kinder in its turning, for someone.

The things we hate…

She is chubby. Her hair is unruly. Her nose is short and wide. And her thighs, her thighs are so chunky they have two creases on each side. And she’s beautiful. I first held her in my arms seven months ago, but she had changed my life long before that.
She is my daughter. Every time I look at her I ache with a potent mixture of joy, love, and the fierce desire to protect her at any cost.

Being her mother is like being the guest of honor at a surprise party, every single day. Like everything before was bittersweet, and after some fumbling around in the darkness, the lights are suddenly flicked on & there’s a celebration. Something wonderful that someone planned for you, just when you thought you had been forgotten. Just when you needed to know how much you are loved, and you come home to a house full of people who see you, really see you, and celebrate.
My pregnancy with her was one of the hardest things I have ever gone through. Everything was a fight; from staying pregnant to staying married. I’ve never felt so helpless or so attacked as I did in the months before she was conceived and during the 8 months that she shared my body. That sounds dramatic, I know. But, it was. Last year was a continual string of tiny wars that I was not prepared to fight. But I had to anyway.
And now that she’s here, everything is better. I mean, of course, there are still things that need worked out. I definately still need to actually work out. But everything is better. This little girl has brought so much life into our home, so much unexpected joy. She is lovely. And truly loved. Her siblings adore her. Her Auntie is smitten. And I, I could spend hours just enjoying the way she coos when I walk in a room, the way her eyelashes curl upwards, or the way the dimples create the grandest canyons in her pudgy little cheeks.
The fact that things that I have always loathed about myself, are some of the things that I love most about her, is not lost on me. Like some cosmic joke, she ended up with the nose I spent all of third grade crying over, the large hands I thought made me look masculine, and a voice that comes deeply from her core. All that, and she is completely wonderful. Loving her so much, has forced me to love the things I had hated, because they are a part of her. It’s amazing how that happened. It’s amazing that that happened to me…. I am so grateful that this child that I thought would break me, has brought so much healing, instead.

My First…

So, this is it. My very first blog. Cue deep breathing….
Why am I doing this? Sending out my private thoughts into the very public world of the internet? Because I write. Because I read. Because I breathe.
I know how it feels to read a shared post on facebook and feel like someone you have never met actually understands you. That you are not alone. That we are all a part of something bigger than ourselves. And also, I don’t want to forget. I have a life worth remembering. We all do, don’t we? And someday, I won’t be here to tell my children all the ways they have changed and challenged me. How they have made every moment better, just by being in it. How they have broken and rebuilt me into something better than I was before. How our life is not only more than I had as a child, but more than I knew was possible. I want them to remember “us”. How we are as a family. How they were when they were young. And, I want them to know me. The real me. Not just the me who helps with homework and cooks dinner every night. But, me. Not for what I do, but for who I am.
I think this is my chance. So I’m taking it.