Dear Ms. Feverfew –
A week or so ago, my mom called and asked me, “Would we be friends?”
“You know, if we weren’t mother and daughter and didn’t have all this history between us? Like if we had just met in a class or at church or something, would we be friends?”
I told her that I thought we would be – I think she’s a pretty neat person, in spite of our history. And I really mean it. She’s an incredible woman who has overcome things in her life that I simply can’t fathom – she has a steely resiliency that is a wonder to behold. I tell her all the time, “Ma, I don’t know why you aren’t sitting in a corner drooling right now because anyone else who has been through what you have been through would be!!!”
She and I – we – are too much alike to not be friends. If we had met in a classroom, she would be one of the ones I would want to have in my study group. She would be one of the ones I would want to meet up with for lunch after statistics. She definitely would be the one I have read over my papers and give me feedback as she is a writer of unparalleled brilliancy in her field.
We would be friends not because of our shared history, but because of the intangibles: our love of the turn of a well-crafted phrase, our love of books (non-fiction, thank you very much), our love of God, our desire to understand the deeper meanings of our daily interactions with our world, our uncanny (and sometimes troublesome) need to always know why and where is it written? In short, there is a sameness about our souls that resonates to the same frequency.
And her questioning led me to wonder about you and me. If we weren’t mother and daughter and didn’t have all this history between us, would we be friends?
Dear Ms. Feverfew –
This morning, you start college. Not only is it Monday (oh, how I love the promise of a Monday morning with the clean week ahead of me) but it is also the beginning of a new school year, which I love even more than a brand new, shiny Monday morning.
How do I know you are starting school? Well, G. told me during one of our last phone conversations. She was slightly aghast and perplexed as to why you would chose the school you did and “why on earth” you would want to move out. “None of the other kids are interested in going to school or leaving home. I just don’t understand her.”
I do. I totally understand. After all, you are bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh regardless of what some piece of paper says.
To me, heaven would be semester after semester of interesting, challenging, and exciting classes. Heck, I love school so much that when I die, I want to be buried in the cemetery adjacent to USU, as close as possible to the gates on the side by the university. There is nothing more intoxicating to me than the heady scent of a library full of books, just waiting to be cracked open and their treasures discovered. There are few things as propitious as an empty 5-subject notebook waiting to be filled with notes, ideas, assignments, and email addresses of new friends from a new semester.
On Saturday, I was at the Farmer’s Market over on Duke of Gloucester, across the street from College of William & Mary. Herds of freshman were wandering through on their campus tours, parents following close behind. Down Richmond Road, parents were helping their kids unload their stuff. I stopped by Staples to pick up some china markers (no one knew what they were – I finally found them on Amazon), the store was full of parents and their newly minted freshman children. I couldn’t help but think of you and wonder if you were doing that exact same thing over the weekend with G. And I wondered…
- Does she know what you want to major in and why you have chosen that field?
- Did she take you shopping for your new place?
- Did she help you sort through your things at home, helping you decide what will be needed (and practical!) at college? Does she even know what will be needed and what will be practical?
- Did she fill your boxes with new pencils, paper, notebooks, and a laptop with the admonition that you simply must email her everyday that first week just to let her know you are doing?
- Did she pour over the course catalog with you and salivate over classes like “Introduction to Art Photography” or “Adult Learning Theory” or “Human Physiology 101” ?
- Did she help you craft your first fall schedule, making sure to remind you to not take any classes before 8:00 a.m.? After all, it gets cold in the winter and face it, 8:00 a.m. in December is a miserable time to be out.
- Was she as excited about getting your schedule finalized as you? Did she call all of her friends and brag about the amazingly cool classes you were taking?
- Did she take you to her favorite salon for one last huzzah as mother & daughter, getting your hair done, your nails, and a nice massage? After all, you want to be looking & feeling your best that first week of school.
- Did she help you unload all of your things at your new place? Did she bring her sewing machine so that once you had measured your windows, you could go to the fabric store, pick out some fabric for your curtains, and then she could sew them up for you?
- Did she take you and your new roommates out for dinner to celebrate your new-found independence?
- Did she discuss with you the difference between buying a used textbook and a new one? (Though I truly prefer a new textbook, always buy a used one for the harder classes if you can – they frequently have awesome notes in the margin!)
- When you brought home your books from the bookstore, did she “borrow” them for a couple of days? Did you have to remind her to please not highlight anything in them, no matter how interesting she thought it was?
- Did she tell you how important it is to find a “mentor professor” to help you navigate your college years? Did she suggest that you find an established research group in your area of interest to hang out with on occasion?
- Did she teach you how to cook, how to clean, how to balance your checkbook? How to iron? Sort the darks from the lights and to never wash a new red anything with other clothes that aren’t in the same color family? Did she teach you how to sew a button on and how to knit colorful, funky scarves for those long, cold, dreary winter months?
- Most of all, before she left you, did she hug you, smooth your Polynesian curls with the warmth of her hand, and kiss your forehead as she declared how pleased she was that you are going off to college and that she knew you would succeed at whatever you set your mind to?
I know I would have. I hope and pray your mother did, because you deserve that in your life.
Much love and belief –
Dear Ms. Feverfew –
Tomorrow morning you graduate from high school. I often dreamed of sneaking in to the ceremony and sitting way up top in the basketball arena at the university where it is held. But then I saw pictures of you all grown up. I knew there was no way I could make an appearance there, as clandestine as it might be, and not be recognized for who I am. Plus, I live 2220 miles away from you now and think I might have a hard time justifying a trip back home just 16 days after the birth of your sister.
We are cut from the same cloth, you and I. Right down to the high set cheekbones and the way we part our hair. We are the same height and wear the same shoe size. If we were ever in the same place at the same time, there would be absolutely no mistaking that I am your mother and you are my daughter. So much so that I recently had a friend who doesn’t know about you but lives in your same, small, provincial hometown email me to say she saw “my twin” at the library the other day.
*Deep, long, drawn out sigh.* If only she knew the truth. If she only knew.
So happy graduation, my darling Boo Bear. I can hardly believe it has been 6552 days since you were born. I won’t be there in person but I will certainly be there in spirit and heart. I hope tomorrow is as wonderful as you can possibly imagine and I pray your future brings you happiness, success, and much love.
Dear Ms. Feverfew –
Somehow, I have misplaced the courage to inform your adoptive parents I have moved across the country. Silly, isn’t it? It’s not like they really care, to be honest with you. After all the years of silence from them, they will most likely be relieved that I am far, far, far away.
So now I live in a place that’s a cross between Mayberry and a National Park. I would include a link to a google map of our address, but since it just takes you to a spot in the middle of a neighboring river, it won’t do you much good. We live so close to the ocean that if the wind is blowing up the bay, I can taste its heady, salty scent from my front porch.
But back to the matter at hand – we moved and in some ways, I have been able to breathe a huge sigh of relief. I spent a lot of time down in your area of the world visiting my in-laws and as you have gotten older, I have grown increasingly worried that I would inadvertently run into you. As much as I would love to see you again, the frozen food section of your local Costco probably wouldn’t be the best place. So not being around reduces the risk of that exponentially – I am fairly certain you aren’t going to be hanging out at the local Barnes & Noble around here. I can go sit and read my books in peace while the good Professor plays with the Thomas the Tank Engine trainset they have on display.
And trust me, there is no doubt we would recognize each other in a fraction of a breath if our lives were to ever accidentally collide. We are cut from the same cloth, you and I. From the curve of your smile & the color of your skin to the way you part your hair – there is no mistaking that we are who we are. If you want to know what I look like, you need look no further than your reflection in the mirror.
But like many things in my life, not being in the area is a double edged sword. Since there is virtually no chance I will run into you at the corner grocery store, that secret hope of mine is gone, even though I know it would be particularly traumatizing for both of us to meet while reaching for the same pineapple at Albertsons. It was always a possibility when I was there in the area and one that is gone now. Mr. Amazing Man doesn’t get why I am so sad about leaving as he is perfectly convinced that you are going to come find me the moment you can, regardless of where I might be living. I guess it is just the fact that…well, that there isn’t even the chance of an accidental meeting now.
And that makes me sad.