A strong legacy.

A strong legacy.

Mom,

You know how you always say that a let­ter is bet­ter than a gift, because it’s some­thing you can read over and over again through the years? Well, I thought that maybe I’d make my let­ter to you pub­lic, so oth­er peo­ple can enjoy how awe­some you are, too.

This would have been post­ed on Mother’s Day, had Michael and I not got­ten the plague from hades. But I know you under­stand. That’s one of the great things about you, and a trait that I’m real­ly glad you passed down to me. Under­stand­ing things. Rather, tak­ing the time to under­stand. It’s the prac­tice of tak­ing that time that you have mod­eled and passed down.

As I think you know (because I didn’t get my scary intu­ition from nowhere!) I’ve been think­ing through my child­hood, rethink­ing a lot of things, ana­lyz­ing — as I am wont to do. I thought you might enjoy some of my mem­o­ries.

To this day, one of my ear­li­est mem­o­ries is the two of us, stand­ing in front of the bath­room sink in the house in Luray (was I stand­ing on a step stool?), with you blow-dry­ing my hair and us singing/howling “You Ain’t Noth­in’ But a Hound Dog” at the tops of our lungs. We weren’t very sil­ly very often, but I loved the times that we were.

In Ten­nessee, the first time you let me wash the dish­es by myself. I prob­a­bly made more of a mess than I did clean­ing it up, but I remem­ber how proud I felt that was allowed to wash the dish­es by myself! I think we were hav­ing tacos that night, because that was also the night that you first asked me to shred the let­tuce — because my hands were so small, I could get the let­tuce small­er than you or Dad could. At least, that’s what you told me. And I had a lot of fun with it.

You always told us that “home” was when we were all togeth­er. Prob­a­bly because of how often we moved when I was lit­tle. And while places still hold dear mem­o­ries, that teach­ing has helped make tran­si­tions so much eas­i­er as an adult — because it’s the peo­ple, not the places them­selves, that are impor­tant and that make for a home. That’s prob­a­bly what has made this past move the eas­i­est yet on me emo­tion­al­ly — because sud­den­ly you and Dad, Jay and Jen and Chris, Paige and Lind­sey and Doug and Jes and so many oth­ers are sud­den­ly close by. That’s what makes this home, not the build­ing itself or the fact that my stuff is here.

In third grade, when my teacher bul­lied me, you stood up for me. You nev­er excused the things I did that were wrong, but you took up for me with her when I couldn’t stand up for myself. You were on my side. You’ve always been on my side.

My six­teenth birth­day — you were so deter­mined to make the par­ty every­thing I could ever want. You got my cake made — and were hor­ri­fied that it was black and white. So you stopped at Hall­mark and bought me a Peanuts fig­urine to put on the cake to make it more colorful…only to dis­cov­er that one of your stu­dents had swiped his fin­ger across my name on the cake. I thought some­thing was hor­ri­bly, hor­ri­bly wrong when you called me so seri­ous­ly from my room to sur­vey the cake. I thought it was hilar­i­ous, and loved the fig­urine you got me. That was prob­a­bly the best birth­day I ever had. We packed the house out with peo­ple, and you even let my friends bring their drum­sets, gui­tars, bass­es, and amps. I believe your words were, “We’re so qui­et the rest of the time — let’s give the neigh­bors some­thing to talk about!”

When I start­ed home­school­ing, you let me pick out the dog that I want­ed to adopt at the shel­ter. Even when time and time again, the dogs that I picked were either too aggres­sive to be adopt­ed out or they were going to grow to be far too large for our house, you kept let­ting me pick. And when I final­ly picked a scrawny Pomeranian/Chihuahua/Terrier mix that looked like a half-drowned fox, you didn’t like her — but you adopt­ed her any­way. Grant­ed, you weren’t the one who had to house train her 🙂 But you sup­port­ed me. And Peanut has been such a great part of the fam­i­ly ever since.

When I final­ly was able to tell you about being sex­u­al­ly assault­ed, you lis­tened to me. You were the only per­son at the time who would lis­ten to me, who didn’t tell me that God was test­ing (or pun­ish­ing) me, or that I asked for it, or any such non­sense. And you didn’t just lis­ten to me, you helped make sure I could get away from my abuser with­out fear of reper­cus­sion.

You and Dad have been a great exam­ple to me of con­sis­ten­cy and respect in mar­riage. Your dai­ly notes to one anoth­er that I read every day for 21 years have impact­ed me great­ly — noth­ing was too big or too small to talk to each oth­er about. And you always, always sign every note with “all my love.” In spite of annoy­ances, the dai­ly grind, pres­sures of life, in joy and in sor­row, Dad “sure does love you” and you always give him “all your love.” That’s pow­er­ful.

You’ve been incred­i­bly sup­port­ive of my pas­sions my entire life. The piano you bought for Jay that I fell in love with, pay­ing for lessons for almost ten years for me. Even let­ting me take voice lessons off and on. You helped me push for­ward with my writ­ing all through junior high and high school. And you were utter­ly bewil­dered when I chose to major in art — but we bond­ed in a way we hadn’t been able to before, because sud­den­ly I had the vocab­u­lary to talk about your pro­fes­sion knowl­edge­ably. You’ve had invalu­able insight into my design projects ever since my first design class.

You actu­al­ly instilled in me a sense of self-respect — I think that’s some­thing we both strug­gle with, but you taught me repeat­ed­ly over my life to respect myself on my own mer­it as a human being. You told me how smart and cre­ative I was as often — and prob­a­bly more often — than you told me how beau­ti­ful I was. You answered every ques­tion I ever had as a child — which, con­sid­er­ing how many ques­tions I have as an adult, I’m sure was a daunt­ing and exhaust­ing task. You read to me every chance you had. You sang to me and with me — that must be where I learned to calm myself down by singing to myself. You bought me scores upon scores of books, nur­tur­ing my love of sto­ries and read­ing and ana­lyz­ing what I read and saw and heard. When I got the notion that I shouldn’t go to col­lege because I thought that sure­ly I’d get mar­ried soon, you talked sense into me about the impor­tance of edu­ca­tion and being able to sup­port myself finan­cial­ly apart from a man (whether that sup­port was nec­es­sary as an unmar­ried woman, in a fam­i­ly dynam­ic where more than one income was required, or in the event that my hus­band were to be dis­abled or dead).

You taught me how to respect­ful­ly have dis­cus­sions, even hard dis­cus­sions in which there is more than one strong­ly held opin­ion. You helped me devel­op rea­son­ing skills while con­stant­ly rein­forc­ing that peo­ple are more impor­tant than hypo­thet­i­cals.

I’m not say­ing we haven’t butted heads. We def­i­nite­ly have. A lot. A whole lot. I know we have our dis­agree­ments, some small and some large.

But at the end of the day, you have been my biggest fan. Prob­a­bly the sin­gle great­est influ­ence of my life. Even now as I am find­ing my own way as an adult apart from your author­i­ty, I find myself still seek­ing and valu­ing your input. You are so full of love, com­mon sense, and kind­ness. And I hope that one day, I am at least half the woman that you are today.

I love you with all of my heart. And I am so, so thank­ful to belong to you and Dad.

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