PROLOGUE: My girl, this is an old letter–circa 8th grade–which seems like a million years ago. How far we have come. How much you have dared to change. Thank you, because we were maniacs back then. Everyone said that in 10th/11th grade, the dust would begin to settle. Thank you, Jesus! They were absolutely right. My dear, I think you and I are gonna make it. Love, Mommie
Homes are built on the foundation of wisdom and understanding. Where there is knowledge, the rooms are furnished with valuable, beautiful things.
Proverbs 24: 3-4
Years ago, when you were maybe two or three months old, I was completely and utterly enamored with you, and motherhood, and I was sure that your every sigh and gesture were sure signs of the finest genius and purest perfection. Suddenly, your Auntie Tammy slapped me with her very unique brand of truth and sincerity. She shot me with a dart of reality as if she was saving me from drinking the poisoned Kool-Aid that many brand-spanking-new mommies drink. A false belief that you, my sweet first and only child, were indeed the answer I’d always been looking for—that You were my Savior and I was yours.
That day, as she sat beside me on my white cream sofa, swaddled in baby paraphernalia and watching my eyes glaze over and simultaneously shut to all the rest of the world around me, she placed her coffee cup on the glass cocktail table and with the deepest, sincerest concern for me in her eyes said, “You know, my friend Ellie says that kids grow up and break your heart.”
It’s 4:30am. I’m whispering to God in the dark mostly about you and the last words that you and I said. As you went off to bed, you turned, looked me dead in the eye and casually said, “I didn’t even want to come home from school today.”
“Why not,” I asked.
“I just didn’t want to,” you repeated, but your words dug like sharp little nails into me.
“Oh really? No reason?" I said. “Really, I think you should at least give me a reason why not.”
But, you only repeated yourself, more shrilly this time and with a deliberate cut after each syllable, “I. Didn’t. Want. To. Come. Home. Ever.”
Turns out Auntie Tammy’s friend, Ellie—aka Mother Misery—was right, kids do grow up and obliterate your heart.
This morning, you said, it was the rules:
· NO iPod while studying or doing homework
· NO TV until after 5:00 pm and all your homework and chores are done
· NO cell phone until the summer before 9th grade
· NO allowance if you don’t do your chores
· NO …..
· NO ….
· NO ….
It was the constant drip of NO's that you couldn’t take any longer.
When I was your exact age –14 – I had no rules. Well, I had one: Don’t get pregnant. On a given summer night at my mother’s house, a fat joint was bound to be the guest of honor at our dining room table with a cast of characters eager to spend quality to time with her. There were always ashtrays needing emptying, a game of spades going round, a 40oz being passed or a six-pack for those more tasteful, and ultimately the police at the door around 4:30 in the morning with all the neighbors on their front porches to watch our show. When the streetlights came on to summon all children home, I never wanted to go.
I bring this all up only because I find it so strange that both of us at 14 years old landed in the same place—you wanting to be released from the strangling confines of our warm Hobbit hole and me dreading my walk back to my Mordor.
You’re 14 and all seems awful. Each rule is no less than a medieval prison’s chamber of torture. I truly don’t expect you to like them at all or even thank me for them later. My hope is that you live so well and so sheltered that you’ll never know that any of those rules were ever needed. May you dumbly look back and think, “My parents were so ridiculous. Can’t believe they made me wait until I was 17 to get a Facebook account.” But you won’t 'cause this world is too cruel and mean to allow you your innocence for much longer.
Right now your class is reading The Fellowship of the Ring and of course we, your enormously nerdy, rule-spitting parents, are reading it again with you. Frodo has yet to leave the Shire. Gandalf has just filled him in on the world outside the Shire and The Ring that threatens to destroy them all. Frodo can hardly believe that such darkness could ever reach the glowing firework lit sky of his precious home. He is regretting that The Ring has come to him at this time. If only it’d come before him or better yet, after he’s lived the promised-milk-and-honey life of a very wealthy hobbit. But Gandalf says this: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Darling, I feel like Frodo most days. I’m wishing for more days when all you wanted was a sparkly bandage to put on imaginary hurts. I want more days when all you want is one more story and to wear your fairy wings to bed. But, I know that Gandalf is right. I have to decide what to do with the time that’s given to me before I send you out to bring light to repel the darkness creeping from beneath the corners of this world.
Yes, Auntie Tammy and her friend, Ellie, were right. Kids do grow up and they break your heart. They shatter it. But I'm not really bothered by the truth of this. I think the shattering is necessary in order to break free from the god of Me Myself and Mine so that my stone heart could give way to something resembling flesh and blood, the bleeding heart of an alright, capable, and even somewhat patient and compassionate human being.
Snickerdoodle, you broke my heart. And, it's alright. As I bleed out all the gravel cluttering every artery, I suddenly feel my pulse again. It’s ever so faint, but it’s steady. I am so grateful to feel the weight of the Master’s Touch push against my chest to start my heart beating again. I see that it wasn't so bad.
Someday, like Frodo, you will leave this Hobbit hole. There will be orcs and trolls, but there will be shapeshifters and elves, wizards and best friends. And there will be eagles! Still, you will remember this corner of the Shire with its books, tea kettles, cheese and biscuits. You will remember our ridiculous rules, our funny ways and customs, our conversations rising like smoke rings haloing our days. And, at some point along your journey, when all goes dark, you will want to come home to all of it again, and you will come, and always be welcomed.