My Dear Alyssa,
I sit in the airport beginning for at least the 8th time to write you this letter. I sit in Starbucks for the second day in a row in Vegas, writing this letter. I’ve been writing this letter to you since before you graduated from UNLV in December. In fits and starts I’ve written, starting fresh, talking from my heart.
Every important letter I’ve ever written you probably includes the precious sound you made when the doctor lifted you from my body. I can still hear it. The tug on my heart was visceral. I didn’t want you to leave the safety of my body. I didn’t want the connection between us to be severed. I wanted to see your face, hold you in my arms, smell your smell, touch your skin. I wanted to watch you grow, crawl, walk, run, dance. I wanted you my whole life, dear one. I have loved watching every moment of your growth, even the hard parts because they have helped you become the woman you are today. Both joys and sorrows will help fuel you to be the woman you will be tomorrow. You asked me if it’s hard for me to see you grow into an adult. That is the path you have been on since the moment of your birth. It is all I ever hoped for. I cherish it!
I once told you that coo sealed the deal, that from then on you owned my heart. To be honest, you owned it long before that and you have claimed it so many times since. I love you, dear daughter, with a passion for which I have no words, me who always has words. At times it makes me fierce and fearless. I would stare down any demon, any monster, for you. I would protect you with my life. At times it makes me weak and tender. I can cry when I think of you, when I see your precious face. The love I have for you is beyond anything I could ever have imagined. My heart is bigger, stronger, fuller, richer because of you.
You have always been one of my most important teachers. Do you remember when we did the presentation for OSCLG on love languages and how we like to give and receive love? That was such an incredibly powerful experience for me. Showing love to and receiving it from Stefan has always been so easy. With you, often, you did not receive my love in the way I intended it. When we did that analysis, I understood. I still love it when you say “talking, Mom”, when I’m trying to support you as you work through an issue. It helps me realize that I am acting out of my comfort level, not yours. It reminds me to adapt to your style, to give you what you need, which is always what I want to do in those situations.
You have the strongest sense of fairness and equity of anyone I know. It grew in you in funny places, like your dislike for the Honda Accord because it had seat warmers in the front seat, but not the back. It didn’t matter to you that you still had to sit in your car seat. It was simply unfair that you had to sit in the back and there weren’t seat warmers there. No cajoling that one day you’d be able to sit in the front mattered, because, as you pointed out, whoever sat in the back wouldn’t have seat warmers.
It grew in your understanding of family, friends, relationships, your certainty about how you deserve to be treated, your unwillingness to let those who don’t deserve you have any place in your life, your knowledge that some people are simply not worthy of your time. I marvel at your strength and clarity. It humbles me that I have been an anti-model for you in this area. I am so glad that I have you as a model for me in this.
You were also a model to me when you hurt your knee. You were fully present. Of course in that kind of pain, it’s hard not to be. You were open about your needs and communicated clearly. Your need for touch was so strong at that time, one of your preferred love languages. You slept entwined with me, your arms or legs always against mine, your head on my shoulder. I believe I made you feel safe, secure, loved. You let me know what you needed and I cherished the ability to give. I treasure the memory of the long morning walks during which I fell in love with Las Vegas. I took pictures of flowers and often ended up at Einstein’s Bagels or someplace else getting breakfast to bring back to you, waking you gently to start your day, helping you with showers, washing your hair, helping you dress and eventually get to classes, helping less as you could do more for yourself. It was my pleasure to do these things. You were so strong and you made me feel like my support helped ground you. I loved that Stefan came to stay with us. In those days we proved again that we are the family I hoped we would be. I would never have been anywhere else but with you. Neither would Stefan. Know that I will always be there for you should you need me.
Your model helped me when I was so dependent after breaking my wrists. I had always been great at giving care, but lousy at receiving it. How you were with me after you hurt your knee helped me relax into needing care and being dependent on someone else. I had loved doing it for you. You helped me realize that others would be fine, even enjoy, doing it for me.
Watching you come back after that and reclaim dance in your own time, at your own rate was so inspiring. Your strength and tenacity impressed me. Again, it was your clarity, your strong sense of self, your confidence in who you are and what you wanted, your understanding of your body and your capacities, regardless of what medical providers or dance teachers told you, your willingness to fight for what you wanted.
Before I had children, I wished for them to be independent, strong, and loving. You are these things and so much more. You are intelligent, insightful, witty, funny, incredibly graceful. I see you relaxing into your life, into yourself. I see a competent, confident, happy woman. I delight in you and am so happy I’m your mother. I cherish every moment of your life and watching what you will do next.
So, what words of wisdom do I have? Trust yourself. You will find your path step-by-step. There really is no right or wrong choice as long as you are true to yourself. It is all about what you do with the choices you make. I wish for you that you live your life to the fullest, in technicolor, no regrets. Choose whatever you choose with love and passion. Change your mind. Choose a different path, whenever you desire or need to do so. Apologize. Love passionately. Live fearlessly. This life is a gift that deserves to be made the most of. As the song says, “I hope you dance”. I don’t care if it’s actual physical dance or not (although watching you dance makes my heart happy). I hope that you embrace your life fearlessly and make of it whatever you choose. You are amazing, my darling and I love you dearly.