Dear Lily June,
So as it turns out, it’s impossible for me to master the virtue of “Order” when you’re sick. I mean, I could devote time to decluttering our hurricane-hit mess of an apartment living room, sure. OR I could stare into your sad face on your first Valentine’s Day weekend while you have your very first ear infection (brought on by your first ever cold) and wish that Amoxycillin and Tylenol worked WAY faster. Guess which one I’m currently doing?
There’s a lot to be grateful for in the midst of your sickness. For one, I’m getting to see the witching hour (i.e. 3:00 in the freakin’ morning) for what it Really Is: The Official Mommy Daughter Rocking Chair Extravaganza 2016. Since you’ve been sick, we’ve been getting that extra special QT bonding time where you sniffle and rub your wet little nose into my robe like an adorable puppy and hack your heartbreaking mists into my face like I’m staring not into the uvula of my kid but the sprays of the Niagara. I say all that kind of snarkily, but I mean it when I say, This is the good stuff, Lily. I mean, at least for me. You seem miserable and unhealthy.
Fun Side Fact: It took your parents a minute to realize you were really Sick-Sick because one of your favorite hobbies has been to play The Girl Who Coughed Wolf. In an imitation of your mother’s Hah! gotcha-style laugh, you’d been for months pretend-hacking to get attention and draw my laughter further.
Here’s a tip, though, if you’re ever a parent yourself someday, Lily: The way tell if your kid is Really Sick? She’ll look freakin’ miserable. She’ll sport bags under her eyes you’d have to pay extra just to check at an airport, a pout so big you could sit on her lower-lip, and a willingness to chime off every hour on the hour at night like a cuckoo clock whose bird emerges to scream, “I’m still sick! I’m still stick! Don’t sleep. I am still sick!” Just sayin’, Lily.
The nice thing is, your parents are (mostly) poor homebodies. That means our Valentine’s Day weekend is devoted to my two favorite things: pizza and pajamas. And my third favorite thing, poetry, was crossed off the list yesterday when I participated in a charity event at my work called Poets for Hire. We charged a dollar a line to go to Delaware County’s Big Brothers and Big Sisters and we produced love-lines and a card-making station for the donator.
I ended up writing a poem commissioned by a co-worker for her Uncle, whose wife passed away just last week. This will be his first Valentine’s Day without her. Knowing he was a painter, I looked up some of his work, and wrote about how his now deceased wife of 62 years will still be his muse within the canvas as she calls to him to live and paint all he’ll see without her. My co-worker cried as she read it then called me later to tell me he loved it, so that filled my heart to the breaking point. The photograph below is of this couple who devoted their lives to each other.
I would be lost, Lily, without your father who has served in my life as a lover, mentor, best friend, muse and co-parent so amazing, he’s taking care of everything with you today to give me the time, even, to write this letter.
And it gets even better. When I was a kid, Lily, I once spent a summer with my grandparents because after a divorce and a move and my mother’s remarriage, I needed a place to escape to. Turns out, living with my dad’s parents in Virginia for a month made me long for home harder. But I digress from the point of the story: Your great-grandmother (my now deceased paternal grandma Marie) knew I wanted to write a letter to my mother, and so she gave me a box of stamps by which to mail it home. At a time when stamps cost upwards of a quarter, these were in the denominations of nickles and pennies; she had saved them for years and years.
“Grandma,” I said with all the love of a snarky pre-teen, “you still have these?! Doesn’t that make you kind of…” I didn’t know how to finish without offending her.
“Frugal?” she offered. My grandfather, notorious for being called “Honeydew” because he lived to quietly serve the domineering matriarch of my family, chimed in uncharacteristically from the next room, “She was going to say ‘Cheap,’ Marie!” I tell you all this so you know what to call me, Lily, when you think of how little money I’m willing to spend on myself when I know we’ll need it for our family. Call me frugal, daughter.
Anyway, your dad, knowing I’m, as a result of my OCPD, more inclined to be stingy and pinch a penny until it spurts more snot than you are currently, put a special task in the bucket list for me: Buy something for yourself. It was incredibly generous of him to do, knowing it would push me. I’m waiting on our tax return, for instance, to finance our move from an apartment to a rental house this summer (rather than spending it on a new laptop even though the screen is literally duct-taped to my computer or spending it on the cavities I started getting when I was pregnant with you, and here we are, post-pregnancy, with you NINE MONTHS later). In other words, Lily, I needed this, and your dad gave it to me: Permission to be totally and blamelessly selfish.
So here are my purchases, Lily. I couldn’t help but get something for both me AND you. (Side Note: Don’t worry; your dad will be getting his own gifts in March as we split Valentine’s Day in two, one for me and one for your father). To commemorate our Bucket List in a Jar project, I got this jar necklace for me…
and this jar necklace for you…
It’ll be a while before you can wear yours, but it’ll remind your dad and I to tell you stories from your first year, from this project, and of our love for one another. You truly are our greatest gift this Valentine’s Day, Lily, and proof of the love upon which all three of our lives are built. Thank you, LJ, for being our daughter. I thank God, the Universe, Fate, Life, and Love, for leading me to your father.
In the meantime, this task reminds me of a simple but important credo in the show Parks & Rec, based on where we live in Muncie, Indiana (referred to in the show as “Pawnee”):
- By Albertyanks Albert Jankowski – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8315665