While Preston and I are on sabbatical for the summer in our letter writing, I thought I would keep up with letters. These, though, are letters with a bit more of my imagined, someday life, and a little bit less of the every day. I wanted to store them up, these daydreams, because even though we should live in the present, there is something to every once in a while glancing out and imagining the horizon.
I’m writing this to you before I know you. You and I are family, and we will always be family, but before I bear the weight and wonder of being your mom, I’m a 21 year-old girl making her first steps in the world. I’m single now, so I haven’t married your dad, and I’m in my very first job after college. Every morning I get up and groan, because I’m not an early riser and it takes all my willpower to stagger towards that first cup of coffee. But you’ll change that for me, with your hunger and your need and your soft, sweet self. You’ll change so many things for me.
I want to write you this letter telling you about being a girl, a daughter and sister and how in this first years of being a grownup it’s hard. I’m not very good at it, sweetheart. I mess up a lot. I don’t call my friends back sometimes, or I forget birthdays, or I snap at my parents and wish my siblings would stay out of my hair. I don’t really know how to manage a budget or figure out when to say “no.” I’m all tangled up, and I have a thousand questions for every answer I get. When you get here, to being a 21 year-old, I want you to find this again and laugh because your mom was a tangled mess and then show it to me. I promise, I’ll remember to have grace for you.
I fell in love with writing letters years ago. I stuck them in the mailboxes of my friends in high school (yes, Aunt Lillie got many of them, which I know you’ll find someday in the box of precious things I keep next to my side of the bed). I wrote them to teachers, to people I barely knew, thanking them for being them. It’s been the most wonderful kind of writing I’ve ever done, and when I write to your siblings, now or in the future, there is nothing I want to do more than tell you how much I love you or how extraordinary you are or how amazed I still am at how our words carry love with them. I want you to know this, beautiful girl. I want you to know that your words have the power to offer love to a hurting world. I want you to know that often, it is that smile you smile and the, “I love you, Mom” that breaks my heart right open.
I’ve been imagining writing this to you for a while. Right now in my life the closest I get to children are the beautiful girls I get to babysit. They’re going to be big when you arrive, years after I rocked them in the hallways of their parents’ houses. But when I held them, and learned to feed them Cheerios and make silly faces, when I learned to play “Winter Song” and “Poison & Wine” on repeat 167 times, God was preparing me for you. I’m learning how to love you, even now, when I don’t know you. I don’t know how He does that. But somehow, He does.
I’m lost when it comes to love, too, at this moment in my life. I want it, but I don’t know what it looks like. I’m learning to keep my heart open and at the same time safe. I’m learning to be patient. I have many days when I drive home from work, through the same roads and looking at the same sunset, and I wonder, “Where is he?” And I am sure someday you’ll wonder that too. I promise that when you ask me, I will tell you what my mom, what Gram, tells me now: When it lights, it lights. She always laughed when she said it, and smiled at Granddad. They’re teaching me every day to laugh and trust, and I will try to teach you, too.
I promise I will love you even when you break things that I told you not to touch. I promise I will love you when you sneak out of the house and put me and your dad in a total panic. I promise to leave the office and pick you up at school when you get sick. I promise to make your dance recital costume even though I can’t sew to save my life (I guess I promise to learn how to sew before you arrive), and buy you new soccer cleats or a lacrosse stick or an extra copy of the script for Hamlet when you lose yours. I promise, love, to be a safe harbor for you. I promise your dreams are big and beautiful and even though I can’t imagine what great things you’ll do, I promise to remind you that God’s love is more powerful than anything in this world. He has good plans for you, love, and I promise His love will carry you even in the days when my love and Dad’s love and Aunt Abby and Uncle Sam and Uncle Joe and all the rest of this crazy family’s love can’t.
Until I meet you, I promise to learn everything I can from the wise people in my life. I promise to be a 21 year-old and mess up and learn from it. I promise to soak in the world and read good books and dream about being a provost and apply to grad schools. I’ll seek the truth and fall into grace.
And when you find this someday, we will laugh over it and remember that love crosses all kinds of distances, even time.