love letter to my daughter, valentine’s day 2018
God’s love is meteoric. His loyalty astronomic. His purpose titanic. His verdicts oceanic. Yet, in His largeness nothing gets lost—not a man, not a mouse slips through the cracks.
Psalms 36: 5-6
When I first met your Auntie Tammy, I wasn’t so sure about this ice-blue-eyed, raven-haired, scrawny white girl. I mean, besides the clearly obvious good looks I thought, “What gives her the right to be so cocksure?” It was green-eyed, villainous hate from first sight. Still, she loved me from the get. I can’t even remember the moment that all my evil intentions (though kept cowardly in check under my breath) gave way to the light that is now your Auntie Tammy with all her sincere and honest beauty—hard edges and all. But, from whatever that moment was I have loved her, and we have loved each other through heartbreaks, empty bank accounts, sizes-up and sizes-down, too-numerous-to-count horrific defeats, and rare but poetic, triumphant victories.
Here’s one of our moments of utter glory: we verbally slapped the hell out of some bullies together. It was just us two against a thousand. Okay, there were only about eight of them, a bunch of fellow artists, poets, screenwriters and actors—ahem—by which I of course mean fellow waiters.
We were folding napkins at our pre-shift meeting for lunch service, talking as if we were the authority on all things we deemed worthy of our rule—music, books, movies, etc… This is the thing that broke, credit-less artists, half-baked, degree-less arts and humanities majors do. I’m sharing this truth with you now because you’ve been dreaming of art school and I’m telling you, you will meet so many who will be the very definition of “obnoxious” in all your classrooms and you, my love, will be just as obnoxious. Don’t worry, I will still love you. You will get your first real job doing “your art”, following “your passion” and before long your obnoxious self will give way to a much more humble being. Just wait and see.
Anyway, we were all there, full of ourselves, convinced even the very napkins were amazed by us (we used to sit writing haikus on our order pads during slow shifts, and for that alone we should’ve been shot). Auntie Tammy suddenly and excitedly said, “Did anyone see that Irish thing on PBS last night?” I immediately said in unison with her, “Wasn’t it amazing!?!”
“What was it called?” she asked.
“Ummm… are you guys seriously talking about Riverdance?” another waiter chimed in. “Ugh… I couldn’t watch more than like five minutes of that. You can’t be serious. It’s like clogging to Enya.”
The floodgates of shame, criticisms, and bashings opened. But your Auntie Tammy wasn’t having it. “You’re all a bunch of classless blankety blank, blank, blank, blankers who won’t ever blankety blank, blank, blank a blankety blank blank thing.”
“Yeah!” was my bit.
There will always be critics of the things that you hold most dear to your soul, my love. Sometimes these things will truly matter and their arrows will scar you for life. Sometimes, these things will be Riverdance.
Last week or so, something that really mattered to your very soul was stoned by friends that you love. I picked you up from school and, unlike yourself, you got in the car and started to cry. It never occurred to me that when you said your speech that you’d written the night before was on pro-transgendered people being able to use whichever restroom they felt more comfortable using, I should have helped you suit up your armor in preparation for the arrows that would come. I can’t believe I sent you out with not even a sling shot to defend yourself, and so your heart came back to me limping and gashed.
Sweetheart, I am so proud of you. It’s not an easy thing to love no matter what. It’s not any easy thing to defend yourself, and others, against your own friends. To be fair to your friends, it’s also no easy thing to love what you don’t understand. But, I have to admit, I wanted to turn the car around and knock some of their heads together.
Sweetie, what they did was cowardly and arrogant. It’s all too easy to criticize en masse. It’s also so easy to feel justified in our decisions about someone’s else rights or our judgments about someone else’s art when our own rights and passions are not being threatened. But you—being black, female, the product of divorce, the member of a bi-racial blended family—know what it is to feel vulnerable, and vulnerability is the ultimate force behind all matters of love.
If you are going to stand for this Jesus who says love your neighbor as you love yourself, by golly, girl you must do just that! I don’t need to remind you that we once had to fight for our rights to use public restrooms, too. So, we must love—patiently, kindly, without envy or pride, selflessly, without judgment, without playing games, truthfully, steadfastly, gently and justly. We must love because regardless of what it costs, love is the only thing that endures. It will never fail us (1 Corinthians 13).
Your friends’ opinions will fade away—like Riverdance they will fade away. We know so very little ever to be cocksure of anything, except for, 1) this faith we have in this God who we swear exists, 2) this hope for complete justice for all people in the end, and, the best and the greatest of these things, 3) this love.