This is how I’ve started each letter in my journal to you for over ten years now. Happy 10th birthday today Joshua.
January 17, 2003. Ten years. A time for a baby to grow into a youth. A time for a woman to grow gray, to lose loved ones, to know total despair–and total bliss.
Here is my first letter to you as a newborn.
“My Dearest Joshua.
I’m sorry to say I didn’t like you much when you were inside me. In that waiting place I couldn’t attach to this being who stole my body. I had no idea you would give me back in love a thousand times what you took away.
But oh, how I knew! The moment you slid into the world and were placed on my chest you were the sweetest love I’ve ever known. In that instant, the dark void you filled in me for nine months breathed a fiery life. I knew then why I detached from you as you grew inside me, because once I met you I would know a love so deep it would scare me in its intensity. And it has–with a ferocious grip.
Forgive me sweet boy for not loving you sooner. You are all things beautiful to me. Light shines out of you with luminescence. So bright you are, full of shimmer and glow.
In times past, I have been held by blazing sunsets slipping over misty fields. My heart has leapt under a starry night’s embrace. I’ve caught the last moments of summer as geese fly overhead on chilly evenings and the bullfrogs go quiet. I have seen these things that caught my heart in pure beauty.
If I never see any of this again I’ll be at peace. For I look at you and see all these things and more. And so in return, I give you my heart–the outpouring of my heart. Take it, for it is yours. To shape and mold and break a bit. But it will always be yours and you shall never be without love.
May you grow to be a self-confident man with a sense of adventure. May you know great love. May you always be kind to others. May you not be crippled by past events but become stronger in spirit. May you be a curious spirit that finds yourself on great paths.
If I do nothing else in life, I know I’ve experienced God’s pure love through you and that I loved you the best I ever could with every part of my soul. Every day I am moved by love.
Every breath I have to give, every heartbeat that moves me along–is yours.
Live in beauty and love, my sweet Joshua.”
From that first letter to now, a decade later, I’ve written you dozens of times.
I’ve cried to you over the terrible losses for families who suffered horrible tragedy with Hurricane Katrina. Of people dying in the heat, violating one another, killing one another. I wondered about the dark place that resides in me. Would I kill someone to get water for my child? Would I let another child die so you could live? I don’t know. I hope I never have to.
I despaired in my letters to you when bad economic times hit our country and the American landscape changed–forever. Every sad story I read hung heavy on me as we struggled too–about families torn apart through poverty, bankruptcy, layoffs, and divorce. And I realized we were the lucky ones. All I had in the world was here. We still had warm beds to sleep in, food on the table, family, and friends–and above all, love.
And when I spent a year watching my mother slowly fade away from cancer, you were the hope that kept me going. I cared for her as a child then I returned home to care for you–my child. You helped fill that terrible loss that changes a daughter forever. I struggled to define the person I was without my mother beside me, while I had to be a mother beside you.
I could never again share the wonders of you with my mom. You stared at a family photo with her and told me “Mom, it doesn’t feel like we’re a family anymore with Grammy gone. She was such a big part of our life and now there is only a little bit left.” And I found that a little bit left can grow again.
Trying to help you understand the world is complex as I don’t quite understand it myself. In the wake of the Newtown, CT shooting you turned off the news and escaped in a book to erase the thoughts in your head about it. You said “That man not only took away their dreams, but the dreams of their loved ones too.”
You are so curious about so much and eager to tell me not to squelch your curiosity. You once said you believed “Heaven was real until they invented planes, because then the planes would poke through the clouds and disturb the angels.”
At three I asked you why you must always ask “Why?” about everything. You said, “Because people have faces!” Funny, but true in a way. We all have a different face with a different story behind it that begs to be told. I wonder what your story will be.
Someday my letters will pass to you, but not yet. I fill my journal with them as you enter a new decade. You are still defining yourself and this means separating from me.
I don’t know yet who you are, this person you are becoming.
I can’t wait to see.
Love, your Mommy
Do you write a journal to your child? Or another loved one? Has it helped you understand and deal with events in your life?
August McLaughlin says
Beautiful, Donna! I have chills. What a treasure for your son—the journal paired with your mad writing skills… Thanks so much for sharing.
I started writing journals to a couple of serious boyfriends I thought would turn out to be husbands. Neither turned out as well as your pursuit. 😉
Hi August, thanks for stopping by. Have you written to your husband yet? What a fun way to record your marriage – and read about years down the road. Maybe celebrate each anniversary by reading the entries. I still have dozens of letters from old boyfriends in the day when letter writing was the thing. And they wrote for pages and pages – a few a week. What a story they tell (that must remain secret – ha ha). I hope letter writing never goes away. My son wants to know why I sit him down and make him handwrite thank you notes. My mom made me and now I love to do. I hope he carries it on. There is nothing like receiving a thoughtful note to make you feel special! As for his journal letters, I wonder when I shall pass them on to him – perhaps when he has a child of his own.
Kathryn Craft says
I wonder if Josh will ever read all your letters. After I married Dave I sent 11-year-old Marty away to Scout camp for a week—since Ron’s suicide he’d been staying close. I knew he feared it, so I wrote him a long note and mailed it right away so he’d get mail from me while at camp. When we arrived for parents’ night I asked if he got my letter. He said, “Yeah, but I didn’t read it—jeez Mom, it was like three pages long!”
This was a very sweet post but as a mom and a writer I’ve gotta love best Josh’s answer about asking “Why”— “Because people have faces.” Hahahaha!!
Kathryn, how funny of Marty! And I can see all the love and time you took to write that note too. Did he save it?
I hope Josh reads them.I think he will. He is very sentimental and an old soul. I hope he does one when he has a child, if he does.
Ann Stolinsky says
This is beautiful! Your letter shows Josh is a much loved son.
When my older daughter was born, I wrote in my journal almost daily. Eight years later when her sister was born, my writing was more sporadic. After a few years, I stopped entirely.
Last year for Mother’s Day I asked my girls to write me a letter telling me how they felt about me. I kept thinking of the people who never get to say things to their loved ones, and I wanted to know, while I’m still here, what they would say to me. Debra, the 21 year-old couldn’t be bothered, but her sister, the 29 year-old, wrote me an incredibly beautiful letter that I carry with me always.
Hopefully Josh will read the letters at some point in the future, and marvel at how much he is loved.
Ann, what a lovely sentiment to as for a letter from your daughters! How priceless a gift is that to hear their words about you. What a great gift to cherish. Maybe when Debra is 29, she’ll want to do that…withy age comes wisdom and more appreciation for people in our lives.
Kathryn Craft says
Whether Josh reads them or not may not be the point. When we publish something we need a readership, of course. But this kind of journaling simply kept Josh close to your heart, and aligned your attitude and gratitude, so it filled its purpose. My guess is your relationship already benefitted, and that if he were ever to lose you, all that love passed straight into his heart. Ironic, isn’t it? I would have loved the kind of mother who wrote to me, and I’d eat up those journals—but if she were the type to do so, I wouldn’t yearn for them.
Kathryn, you always have such great insight! Yes, the journal has been more for “me” than him…and I want to record him as I see him grow into the person he is becoming. He moves me to write it – so it is all tied to love. 🙂
Randi Sherwood says
Funny, I wrote in a journal to my daughter and like Ann, they got less frequent and eventually stopped. But I can honestly say that my words were not as elegant as yours. I told her that she was beautiful, and how she could light up a room with her smile because it was contagious. I mentioned events that were happening in the world and little things like fashion trends and popular movies or music. I told how it felt to be her mommy, and things people told me about her. I haven’t given them to her, I’m not even sure she would appreciate them yet as a teenager, but maybe when she has a child of her own she will understand…maybe.
Randi, a great keepsake! Save that for a special event to give to her…a major milestone when she is a bit older. When she has a child of her own will be especially poignant as she will finally then understand what you went thru – as she now is.
Catherine Stine says
We have video journal things. The boys love ’em.