Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Dear Stella....

Can you remember what it felt like your senior year of high school?  I can't - not really.  That could be because I was a total wreck.  I was very unhappy at home.  I moved into my own apartment in March of my senior year.  My mom couldn't live with me and although she was very broke she preferred helping me out with 1/2 my rent ($350!) to living under the same roof with me.  In fact, when she bought her own house that fall she told me I "wasn't welcome" in her new house.  I know I was angry and depressed as a teenager but I will never understand a parent telling that to a child who is basically a good kid, just depressed and confused and angry.  It's not like I was a drug addict who would steal her stuff if she let me in her house.  She just wanted me to stay away from her.   That's just a sliver of our complicated dynamics.  You can imagine how awful it was for me to have to move in with her back in 2004 - to the very house that she'd told me I wasn't welcome in back in 1993.

Jeez, tangent much, Alannah?  My point is that senior year is a difficult and emotional time for a young person.  Stella has certainly gone through her share of tears and confusion.  "I just wish someone would tell me what to do" she begged me one night.  So I did.  I told her that she should go to her first college choice, the small college in Colorado.  That we would somehow figure out how to pay for it but that is her goal and I need to support her.

The horrific tragedy in Newtown, CT caused me to have an epiphany of sorts - LIFE IS SHORT.  I had been concerned about how we can afford to send Stella to college in Colorado.  I kept suggesting to her that she should at least apply to UofA as a backup and she kept declining.  Then one afternoon a few days after that awful Friday I was in my car and the epiphany struck - LIFE IS SHORT.  It could end any moment.  I could lose my beautiful, adored baby (teenager) girl.  I could.  Or she could lose me.  So instead of pulling back and always pointing out the negatives and cons of this decision I should be focusing on the positive and working to make her dreams happen. 

The college she wants to attend is a former Indian schools so, in keeping with their tradition, any student who is a card-carrying member of a recognized tribe gets her tuition waived.  On her father's side Stella is 1/8 Cherokee.  That is solid enough for a card.  All her cousins, aunts, and grandfather have their cards.  Her father doesn't, though.  But his family helped us get all the necessary documents together and we sent them off back in October.  We're still awaiting the results but I'm hopeful.  I do find it ironic that he has never helped with any part of raising Stella but could possibly give her the greatest gift of tuition-free college education through his bloodline alone. 

Christmas eve I was thinking about Stella, like I often do....worried about her stress and anxiety levels about all these imminent changes.  So I dropped all my wrapping and crafting and, at like 2am, sat down and wrote her a real letter.  People rarely write real letters anymore and it's such a shame because having a tangible letter with words written by a loved one is a special thing indeed.  I wanted this letter to be something she could keep and pull out any time she needed a boost or needed to feel loved, loved in a way that goes beyond a post on her Facebook wall. 

With Stella's permission, I will share the letter I wrote her with y'all.  I'm not sure why I wanted to post it...probably because it shows how much I love my daughter and how we relate to each other.  Here goes:

December 25, 2012
Dear Stella -

First of all - Merry Christmas Sweetie!  Of course there's no way to know anything about what the future holds but this very well may be your last Christmas at "home."  Your last Christmas as a high school student - that much is known.  So I'm taking this knowledge as an excuse to write you a real letter - a letter I hope that you save and take out to read whenever you need to remember how I feel about you or want to be lifted up by words of unconditional love and admiration.

You are 17 today.  I am 37.  This year, it seems, has been full of potential (as in what is about to happen), transition, challenges, adventures, and change.  Both of our lives will change drastically in 2013 as well.

I am so excited for you!  I am filled with optimism and anticipation when I think about the many different wonderful paths you could take.  I'm SO proud of the woman you are becoming - STRONG. SMART.  BEAUTIFUL.  CREATIVE.  CURIOUS.  HUMBLE.  EMPATHETIC.  CARING.  BELOVED by so many!

It makes me feel so good to know how many people in  your life adore you and share in my pride and delight in who you are becoming.  I've always said that my truest philosophy as a mother - my primary goal - is to raise a human being with whom I would want to hang out.   And you are!  You are my favorite person to be with. 

No matter where this crazy journey will take you, I have so much faith that you will flourish along the way.   You really must know how special and wonderful it is for me to realize how incredibly talented you are.  Every doodle, every song you play and sing back in your room at night, every special thing you make for your friends, every outfit you put together - IT IS ALL AMAZING AND BEAUTIFUL TO ME!!  You interpret your world with such graceful and lovely creativity - it never fails to delight and astound me. 

What I wish for you is to  have the awareness and ability to stop and reflect on these things.  I wish for you to recognize opportunities and take them, and to approach new phases with an open heart and the confidence you deserve.

I hope that you will feel proud of your choices you make.  And I hope that you will always talk to me and tell me about your dreams and goals so that I can support you in achieving them.  I want you to dream big because there is no reason not to.

I want you to ALWAYS know how very beloved you are.   You have a whole team of people, near and far, who also want to support you in achieving your goals.  You're never alone in your struggles.  We are all alongside you, pushing you forward in life. 

It is after 3:00am and the big fire we built earlier is now dying out.

I know that I will miss you so much when you go away to school but the happiness and excitement I also feel for you will be much stronger than the missing-you.

I want you to know that it is okay to miss me too!  But  you will also be learning how to live a life separate from mine.  And what kind of life will that be?  I look forward to finding out.

Think of this as a pure and simple love letter.   You are the greatest love of my life and you will forever be my favorite person in the world. 

It's always been funny to me that people debate "the meaning of life" because it's so blatantly obvious - The Meaning of Life IS Love!  It is to love others and to be a person that others can love.  It is to generate as much love as possible in one lifetime, whether by loving others or creating environments where love flourishes.

I never knew how powerful true unconditional love could be until the day I first  held you in my arms.   I hope you always feel how strong and forever my love for you is.  Let it comfort you during hard times and nourish you every moment of  your day.

You are the very best thing I've ever done in my life!

Love,
Mama

4 comments:

AMD said...

BRAVA!

Stacy @ Stacyverb said...

What an honor it is to be allowed to read this beautiful letter!

I Know Right? said...

This is beautiful A!!! I have a step...I have a daughter right now, all of 15 going on 27 and she is so headstrong, emotional and full of what seems to be a combustible mix of rage love and sadness. Reading this letter has reminded me of how I need to show her what a Dad might not do often enough. More words of encouragement, hope and support. I think I tend to be the rock. Dont show chinks in the armor or you cant take care of things, but I think that is simply me showing how I was raised. Thanks for the boost. I think this entry and the letter you wrote to Stella will help far more than your wonderful family.

m said...

Oh, this is just beautiful. I feel like I should be writing you a thank-you note now!

Michelle (reading in reverse order)