Dear Lily June,
In America, thirteen has traditionally been seen as an unlucky number. In fact, one of your mother’s favorite comedians of all time, Mitch Hedberg (who’s making angels cackle now, Lily) has a bit about 13 being so unlucky that even the alphabet letter B should be considered guilty by association because “B looks like a scrunched together 13.” He goes so far as to say that if you ever meet a man named Bob, you should, just to be safe, immediately tell him to “Get the f*ck away.”
One lucky thing you’ll learn, little Lily, is that you are not resigned merely to the family you’re granted by circumstance (though we ARE pretty great, it’s true). You will also always have the option of expanding that group of people beyond those who are related by blood, including as you will those who are loved by choice.
The playwright Tennessee Williams puts this a bit more succinctly when she writes,
“Friends are God’s way of apologizing to us for our families.”
And Lily, through this blog, I’ve made some of the greatest friends I could ever imagine, even though some of these folks, like your “Auntie” Patricia who wrote to you below, might be one of those friends I never physically meet. Through her many comments on my earliest posts (where she used to apologize for commenting too much, as if one should apologize for granting me too many gifts of wisdom!), I came to know her. From the vulnerable stories shared on her own blog, O-pen-u-nated, I came to love her. From her wise opinions (o-pen-ions?) on everything from codependency to house hunting (and even to apologies, appropriately enough), I came to completely revere her.
In her letter below, she gives you some golden advice: Listen to your mother. (YAY!) But she’s also been quick, in the time that I’ve known her, to continually remind me of this pearl: That you’ll grow up in spite of me. For someone with control issues that run as deeply as mine, that is a hard pill to swallow (with no spoonful of sugar to help it go down.) It’s not as if I WANT to control you; I just want to put you in a bubble to preserve your safety and innocence until you’re roughly thirty-eight years of age. Is that so much to ask, Lily?
But even as I think that momentarily, there’s Patricia again in my ear, even though she’s never been close enough to actually whisper to me, whispering in my thoughts, “She’ll grow up in spite of you, Alyssa.” And I hope, then, that you find a friend like Patricia: one who will both honor and humble you simultaneously, because she will at least ALWAYS be honest with you. There are too few truth-tellers in this world, and if you want someone to tell you your butt looks thin, find yourself a good fun-house mirror.
If you want someone to tell you how it is, you need a friend like Patricia. You need a friend who is as strong, fierce and independent as she is, one who, like your mother, embraces the need for restroom etiquette. You need a friend who has clawed her way from up from the hells and wells of rough relationships enough to tell you, “You don’t need any (wo)man to be whole in yourself.” You need someone who will tell you (maybe ironically) when you’re trying to control too much, but also when you need to forgive yourself for the times when you can’t make yourself who you want to be. You need a friend like Patricia, Lily, I’m telling you. Do what Patricia says to do on at least this one: Listen to Me.
And listen to her, too. She knows of what she speaks.
Dear Lily June,
I hope you don’t mind my using your pseudonym, but it is the name I know you best by. It is so special to be able to write this letter in honor of your first birthday. Every time I see your picture with that smile that could light up the sky, I want to give you a big hug. I can see your whole personality in your face. I predict that you will be intelligent and creative thanks to the genes you have inherited from your parents. I also think that you will be funny and spunky like your mom and warm and loving like your dad. As I get that both your parents were a bit quirky growing up, you will most likely follow in their footsteps.
You are so blessed, Lily! Not only do you have loving, devoted parents but you also have an extended family of many people who love you already. It’s a good thing that we don’t live in the same area or you would be inundated by all the attention you would get. You are going to have such a rich life. You may not grow up in the lap of luxury (which is not all its cracked up to be anyway), yet you will have the best of both of your parents which is so much more than most of us could wish for. The devotion your parents show in their sacrifices, concerns and the way they strive to give you every part of themselves is so special.
That your mother teaches you the intricacies of life, gives you insight into who she is and where and what she comes from through her letters is such a gift. You see, many children grow up without an instruction manual such as you will have, and instead they have to muddle through not understanding what and why they are as they are. They don’t understand that they are a product of the lives their parents have lived and as their upbringing and experiences have formed them, so do they form their children. Rather than resent your parents as you grow up, embrace them for you are a gift to them and their gift to the world. They won’t parent perfectly (no one does or can), but instead they will give you everything in their power to help you navigate the world you will inherit.
When you are feeling rebellious, Lily, take a good, hard look around you at the love that less fortunate kids do not have. See how sad and/or angry they are, see the lost look in their eyes, see the wistful look as you complain about your parents being so strict or having to spend family time with them. You will be envied, Lily, for you will have less than perfect parents who give you a love and support that will carry you through anything. You will always be able to turn to your parents for your mother’s wisdom and your father’s comfort.
You are wondering how I know these things when I have never met and may never meet you. You see, I know these things because I read the letters your mother writes to you. Also, your mother and I have lived through some of the same experiences and because of that, we know each other even though we have never seen one another’s faces. You will find people in the world that you feel this way about as you walk through life. You will know their friendship and love and you will understand them as you understand yourself.
The best news is that you will not have experienced the pain that your mother, father and I have experienced because we have done the hard work of learning about ourselves so that we hopefully will not pass it on to our children. You do not have to like the decisions your parents make for you or how they parent you but if you look at the situation through the eyes of love, you will see that what they do is done out of love for you.
You, like most of us, will not see that your parents have the wisdom borne of their life’s experiences and they pass on their wisdom so that you will not have the burden of experiencing certain pains yourself. My wish is that you give their opinions and advice careful consideration and understand that they have been or know someone who has been in every situation you will encounter. Learn from our mistakes, Lily, so that you won’t have to learn the hard way.
Embrace your life, Lily, look for the good in others rather than the bad, get every single bit of knowledge you can, learn from your mistakes because we all make them and love openly. There is so much to look forward to but do not rush. If you rush through life, you will miss the hidden pleasures and special moments. You have limited years to be a child and a lifetime to be an adult so treasure your childhood and let the adults in your life do the heavy lifting.
We do it willingly because we cherish your childhood and want it to be as carefree as a butterfly. Fly, baby girl, fly and don’t fear because you will learn as you go and though you won’t see me, I will be watching from the mountains high above to see where you land.
You are loved,
Your Aunt by Choice, Patricia of O-pen-u-nated
- By asenat29 – https://www.flickr.com/photos/72153088@N08/6510934443, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org
- By Trailer screenshot – Mary Poppins Trailer, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5388570