Friday Letter to my Kids – January 9, 2015
Dear J, J, L and L,
We moved to the Northwest when only two of you had joined the family. What an adventure for all of us. That many years ago cell phones didn’t really exist yet. Surprisingly, we didn’t experience any car problems, which if you recall our travel history, probably made it to the record books. Driving that far with two little kids on my own (your Dad was already working and had found us a place to live) helped me feel like a mini-rockstar.
I’ll never forget when we pulled up to the local playground to wait for your Dad to bring keys to the new apartment. You both hopped out of the car, relieved to finally escape and stretch your legs. Little J immediately walked over to a boy on the monkey bars and said, “We just moved here. Will you be my friend?”
That floored me. What a direct and honest thing to say. Luckily, four year olds aren’t all tangled up in social customs and nonsense. They just say what they think, do what they feel, go with the mood.
Both of you made friends with kids of all ages when we lived in that first apartment, which helped me get to know the adults associated with those kids. You made the big change to a really new place so much easier. (As a side note, do you remember picking wild blackberries in the woods nearby? I think I might still have a scar or two.)
We added Big L to the family while we lived there. Then we moved a couple of years later, forty miles north. I loved that restaurant we went to that had the little train that ran on tracks suspended from the ceiling. They served this appetizer called an onion loaf. Basically fried onion rings packed into a bread loaf shape. But my tastebuds sidetrack us here.
We still have a cassette tape (which I should transfer to digital) of a typical morning there. For some reason there’s a cat in the house, although we didn’t own one, must have been a neighbor’s. I love hearing your voices, our discussion about needing lunches packed or buying lunches that day. Big L saying “stupid cat,” over and over again. And figuring out who was walking or riding with who. I think it might’ve been raining (ha, like that’s a wild guess for up there, huh?). Ah, good times.
- Big L discovered knots when we lived there. She used to disappear into my closet and tie all the shoes together, which made getting ready to go somewhere an interesting exercise.
- Big J played Lego’s every single day with, what was his name? And took shortcuts through the golf course to visit your friend whose Dad worked for Nike.
- Little J fell in love with the movie “Beaches” and ate candy bars and drank Cokes every afternoon with her best friend Sara.
I had a friend there too. I don’t remember her name. Maybe if I dug out an old journal I’d find it, but I don’t think I want to remember a name. We weren’t friends all that long. One day, out of the blue for me, she basically said,”I can’t be friends with you anymore. I’m trying really hard to be more optimistic and positive and you’re always so negative.”
Talk about a punch to the gut.
Even now I kind of feel this wave of nausea thinking about it.
You know how you sometimes walk along somewhere and all of a sudden you see yourself in an unexpected mirror? It throws you off balance a little. I know I carry around this picture in my head of how I sound and look. But then when I see the real me in a photo or a mirror they don’t match up. What my friend said was like a mirror thrown in front of me.
I think we need those unexpected mental views of ourselves that honest outsiders can provide. I try to be open to their perspective.
I had no idea I was such a downer until she said that. I thought one of the things friends did was share honest thoughts and feelings, even the negatives. Maybe I over shared. Probably she hit the bullseye there. Back in those days I probably rode the negative train, most of the time.
I wish I could say I changed immediately. More than likely I got defensive. More than likely I moped. More than likely I didn’t try to make friends again for a while.
In fact, I’m thinking I probably didn’t really change for the better until Oklahoma a year after Little L joined our gang. Do the math there. That’s a long time as a dweeby, self-absorbed, cloudy skies sort of person.
I could hope that there’s some chemical equation that makes positive ions/attitudes weigh more than negative ones and that things have balanced out. I think they might not have. For me it’s a nearly constant struggle to “keep on the sunny side of life.” (<= click to hear the song)
What does any of this have to do with how this letter started out?
You all have weathered change and challenge with such bravery and grace. You must have arrived here preprogrammed with awesome genes. You step up, state the facts and take action. Look at you!
When I grow up I want to be like you: open and straightforward with what I think, willing to try new things, brave enough to ask for what I want and need, creatively finding ways around obstacles and difficulties. And optimistic! Yup, you each see life as a bright, good thing.
Thanks for the great examples you are to me. I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to have worked the other way around. At least that’s probably what the parenting books all say.
This I know for certain. I’m positive that I love you.
“What day is it?”
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favorite day,” said Pooh.
~ A.A. Milne