A love letter to my daughter, when she tripped and fell, and to my son, who cried wolf because of it.

You were running around your room, which we had spent all day tidying. We’d picked up and packed away. We’d reorganised your furniture. You told me what should go where and we moved it together; ‘1, 2, 3 heave!’ your contribution.

You tripped and fell, after spinning in circles on the floor now free for spinning circles. Your pyjama pants half way up your legs, got under foot and down you went with them. Your upper lip, much more made for kisses, took the impact on the frame of your bed.

I knew instantly how badly you had hurt yourself, because of your cry. A blush of purple bruise will tell us tomorrow. Your held your little hand to your face. That feeling of disbelief that something could be so painful; that you were still intact.

I sat cross-legged, where moments before you had been turning, your arms in the air. And I scooped you up and held you to me, your body still fitting in my lap, though these days you spill over the sides. And I said what I say. Sshhhhh. Sshhhhh. You’re okay. I’m here.

I told you I could hear in your voice how much you were hurting.

Your brother, after you had fallen asleep; once you’d calmed down, and I’d turned off the light and sung all our songs; bumped his head on the rail of your bunk beds, and got upset. And I said what I say. Sshhhhh. Sshhhhh. You’re okay. I’m here with you.

And I told him I could hear in his voice that he wasn’t too hurt.

So this is to say, to both of you; as all these letters are, even if they’re are addressed to the other; I have heard all your cries. I have been here. I am here. I am right here with you. And I am listening.

I am always here to listen. No matter what you are feeling; how big or how small. When you can only say one thing, because you mean something else, but the something else won’t come out how, or though, you mean it. Or you haven’t found the words quite yet. Or when, really, all you are looking to hear is that you matter, too, and just as much, and as much as ever. Or because sometimes you can’t believe how painful it is; or that you are still intact.

I will be there. I will be right there with you. I will hear in your voice how much you are hurting, and I will drop everything.

Except you.

I love you,
Mama.

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A love letter to the father of my children on his birthday.

One of my most vivid memories of you was when I told you I was pregnant with our son.
‘So, you wanna have a baby with me?’ ‘…When?’ ‘Oh, about 9 months?’
We were laying in bed, some otherwise toneless morning, in a tumbledown dive on the right side of town. We were so young. We’d yet to meet one another’s families. We weren’t sure where we were heading in our lives, but we sure hoped it was together.

A year to the day we met, Theo was born. And 15 months later, came Mabel.
We lived together and got a puppy. You went back to school. I stayed home with the baby. You began your career. I stayed home with the babies.
We mended what fell apart, as best we could. As best we knew how to. Though it proved not enough to keep things together.
We were 23 when I first saw you across a crowded room.
And you are 29 now, as I write this from a room crowded with life of a different kind.

Our children are outside right now. You wouldn’t believe it, but they’re talking about Bob Dylan. ‘Do you like Bob Dylan?’ ‘Yeah! Do you like Bob Dylan?’ ‘Yeah!’. We made some beautiful music together, you and I. It’s dancing all over us. It’s holding the tune while we find a new rhythm. And we are. We will.

Happy birthday. May the radio play all your songs.

There’s always a space on my dance card for you.

With love,
Alice.

A Love Letter to My Daughter on Her 3rd Birthday.

Happy Birthday Darling.

You are a constant reminder of how good things can be. You’re a shining example of happiness.
mbel2

I gave birth to you at the foot of my bed. Kneeling on the floor with your Grandmother in a headlock. At both of your births, the strength of her presence has been what assured me I could do it. She cut your cord and your Aunty came in. ‘Look! I did it!’ I told her, a sister I chose some 7 years earlier, when she hung over the fence separating our houses and tapped a bottle of Tequila on my window, at 8am, while I was eating my breakfast. This time we celebrated with a cup of tea.

Everyone went out soon after, I remember. The midwife packed and left. Your brother bundled off with your daddy, sent in search of pastries. Your Aunty doing the washing. Your Grandmother hurried home to tell your Pappous, in Greece, that you were finally here. I sat with you on the couch, in the sun, and remember feeling as if the house had never been so full. The room was you. It always is.

mbel1

You told me recently, as we were sitting on the same couch in the same sun, that I was your best hero ever. That I was like something off the television. And it was about the best compliment of my life. But then, that’s how I feel about you. That you are my daughter is one of the best things about me. And I don’t know exactly how these things work; if you chose me or I chose you, or if it’s all simply chance, but I do know, whatever it was, it got things exactly right with you and me.

I don’t know if I could ever tell you completely, how sweet you are. How you arrived in my life and completed something in me. Some search I had been on, without map or compass. You arrived and, set in my arms, came stillness. And from that stillness a quiet strength has at last had chance to make a home in me, to take a hold in me.

And I don’t know exactly if that strength that we find, comes from other people; a love that they show us, or that someone like them could believe in someone like you. Or if it just comes at certain times in your life, when you find the right light, and everything is revealed to you as simply greater than it was before. I just know that it happens.

It’s how I came to know, what people mean when they say, you’re the best thing that ever happened to me.

You’re my best hero ever.

Love,
Mama x

A letter to my 2 year old daughter, after we fought over a sandwich.

Dear Mae,

You wanted to make a sandwich, like your brother now can.

It might seem odd, to row about a sandwich. But anyone who has ever cohabited with anyone will be sure and tell you, when pressed, or barely pressed at all, of the suffering they endured at the hand of a person they shared their house with.

You got the bread out of the bag and selected your slices. You would only be contented with tomato sauce as sandwich filling, which I am sure I should feel more shame than I do about telling the internet. I, personally, am not one to judge a person on their sandwich preferences. That’s very personal. But, you know how people can be. It was on white bread too. Which we only ever have in emergencies. Like, when I simply cannot face the supermarket and we have run out and I have to buy a loaf from the dairy. So, a lot.

We have this kind of high-powered tomato sauce, you know? One of the ones with the lid at the bottom? And it’s fairly full. So you’re standing there, using a dining chair for your table, bread laid out just squeezing the ever-loving crap out of this bottle of tomato sauce, which is, in turn, shooting over, not only the bread, but the chair and the wall, because this is real life, and that’s what happens. And I am trying to let you do your thing; it’s only mess, there’s worse things already dried on that wall, I’m sure. Saying supportive things like, ‘That’s wonderful, darling! You’re doing such a good job of getting the sauce out of that bottle! Do you know who Jackson Pollock is?’ When you begin to weep.

I ask you what’s wrong, only as taken aback by this sudden turn of emotional events as anybody who has spent time with a toddler would be, as these big, perfect Man Ray tears are rolling on down your little apple cheeks.

‘IT DOSEN’T LOOK LIKE MY NAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMEEEEEE!’, you tell me. In between sobs.

And I remember all to well, that feeling.

The abrupt realisation that things were not turning out as you imagined.

I help as best I can. Offer solutions, many and varied, all of which you reject. Because sometimes there is no helping things. Some times all you will want is for your tomato sauce sandwich to read your name, though you can’t spell it, and that’s just how things are. There’s nothing else for it. And I get that, darling. I hear how frustrating things can be. How trying. But feeling those feelings is part of this whole thing we’re doing. Connecting and growing.

Because, one day, you’ll sign your name to all sorts of things. Things you’ll make. Futures you’ll envision. And some of them might be challenging. And some of them might yield more happiness than you could have ever imagined they would, when you dared to dream of them. You have to begin somewhere.

 

This isn’t what the row was about, obviously. The row was when I went to put the top on your sandwich, and you lost your tiny mind, yelling at me that I had done it wrong.

‘THAT’S NOT THE LID, MAMA!’

It’s not?

‘THAT IS THE PLATE I MADE FOR MY BREAD! I MADE IT FROM MORE BREAD!’

Which? Totally genius. And so you.

Though you ended up covered in sauce and asked that I kiss your cheeks to clean them.

Which? Totally adorable. And so you.

And then your brother poured you both a glass of milk and asked you if we were having a celebration. And you told him you had some paperwork to do.

And I stood there a moment, in this green kitchen we spend so much time in, and I thought about writing this down for you. Because one day, maybe, you’ll be here, or there, and this kitchen will no longer be the centre of our universe, and you’ll be having bigger and better arguments over the same feelings. So here is some relativism for you.

It so often starts with a sandwich.

I love you,
Mama x

A Love Letter to You.

This is to say thank you.
Thank you for reading what I write. Thank you for the validation it brings. Because it’s more than the validation of a number or a notification.
It’s you being here with me.
And that’s all anyone is ever looking for.I like you too, you know. I like how your eyes look after you’ve been crying; from laughter or otherwise, all red-rimmed but clear, like you can see more now than maybe you did before.  I like your nose, how you’ve grown it in the centre of your face. I like how you mispronounce words sometimes, but you think that trying is more important than how failing may feel. You’re right. And I like that about you too. I like how sometimes you sit down or fall down or feel down and think you may never get up again, but you do. I like that there’s something that you really love, something that makes you know what they mean when they say ‘it’s dear to my heart’. Writing has always been that thing to me, and you being here has helped me not be so afraid to say that, instead of whispering it, when no one was listening. I like that everyday your future is finding you, wherever you are. And I like that, somehow, we are connected in that, even though some days it’s only across this technologsea. I like that we can make each other feel less alone, because we’re not, really. You’re here and I’m here.
Thank you.

I appreciate it.
With love,
Alice Andersen.

A letter to my son on his 4th birthday.

Dear Bubba,

Theo4

 

You’re 4. Right now. Today. Sitting on our yellow couch watching Sesame Street. There’s popcorn kernels in the hallway and a slice of bread on the floor of the lounge. These things are not indicative of it being your birthday; they’re just indicative of how things can be sometimes. Things that will probably end in ants.

You’re 4. Right now. Today. And I remember so clearly, the moment you were born; in a plastic paddling pool in my mother’s kitchen. How heavy you felt; out of my body and in my arms. Finally; after 9 months, after 2 days of labour, after my whole life changed. You made me a mother in that moment, physically. You have made a mother of me every day since. I had so little idea, really, of what that would mean. That with you would come such meaning; a complete purpose; a new identity.  It was always  important to me that I not lose myself to my new title, that I held on to some semblance of balance. That who I was before was not eclipsed by who you had made me. So I mother you with who I am. Because as much as we are one another’s, we are separate. Even though we are made for and from each other. I respect you for who you are, as your individual you.

 

Theo9

You’re 4. Right now. Today. You have taught me more about myself than any introspection has. The practical application of caring for you. The strength and patience and resources it takes you treat you in the manner you deserve to be treated.  How being connected to you has connected me with everything. Son and sun at once.

You’re 4. Right now. Today. The house needs vacuuming and I haven’t decided what to cook you for dinner, though you’ll just want pizza. I’m looking at you now, I feel like I’ve spent your whole life just staring at you. You’re wearing stripes and jeans and your favourite boots. You’re playing with your hair. You’re balancing a helicopter on the back of a plastic truck. You’re talking to your sister.

Today.

Right now.

You’re 4.

 

Happy Birthday, darling.

 

You are endless to me.

 

Love, Mama xx

 

 

May.

Dear Babies,

This month the washing machine broke down (because I washed too many couch covers too many…and at once) and my cellphone stopped taking calls (because I answered it with wet hands from running the bath) and the batteries for the home phone were no longer working (after they were used in an ‘experiment’) and the dishwasher all of  sudden no longer washed dishes (which led me to discover, it was actually a fuse) and power points all over the house no longer had power and my laptop went to sleep and never woke up and the laptop I borrowed didn’t have all its keys (so I spent 3 weeks copy and pasting ‘L’s, ‘T’s and 9’s and do you know annoying that is, when you’re in a heated debate, over instant messenger?) and the USB keyboard I purchased today, because I had to write this post? Well, my darlings, I’ll be damned if the ‘A’ doesn’t work. So whenever you see one, think of me fondly; cross-legged and squinting, machine on machine, hunting for typos. Ctrl V. Ctrl V.

And all this to say, sometimes you will have a mare. And you will get to the point where you say, gosh, that’s a fair share. And then more will happen, and you’ll think, really? But…really? And then more will happen and you may have  cry; or you may be too tired to cry, or too stubborn; so maybe you’ll just be angry instead, and you’ll curse your lot and call your mother and swear and complain.  And then more will happen and you’ll be like OF COURSE. COME AT ME! WHAT ELSE YOU GOT? Because you are my children; and that’s how we do.

And on and on it may go, a veritable avalanche, untill you get to the point where you no longer care, which comes as respite, but also, rewardingly leads into the point where you will find yourself laughing. And then it’s as if the secrets of all things are revealing themselves to you. Because if you can still laugh, for whatever reason, alone and your own, you’re doing okay.

Because there will always be times where things go wrong. Times the sheer relentlessness of the world will astound you. But there are also first kisses, and new ventures, and parties and books. And inspiration and peanut butter and jam sandwiches and really hard hugs, right when you need them. There’s conversation and collaboration and new party clothes and treasure and gold watches and do you know how many cat videos there are on the internet? There’s new bands and old bands and doing your best. There’s cleaning your bedroom and washing your hair. There’s new friends and old friends and family. There’s new friends and old friends and family, who have a full complement of working chattels.

There’s a quote, wrongly attributed to Buddha, that says, “When you realize how perfect everything is, you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.” And while it my not be from the source, there’s wisdom in it. Remember there is much to look forward to. And most of it will come as a complete surprise.

*

This month you said:

Driving somewhere talking about what we could see out the window:
Theo: Look at that truck Mama!
Alice: That’s a good one, Bubba. What do you like about it?
Theo: I like the engine and the started motor!
Mabel: I like the black it’s painted!

Sitting at the kitchen table; eating dinner:
Theo: Mama, what are prickles?
Mabel: Like on cactuses! (Then you laughed to yourself) Good thinking, me!

Sitting on the couch in the afternoon with Mae on my lap, when she turns to face me and pats my chest.
Mabel: Mama, your boobies were a milk container!

Theo came over to fix my fence (as played by the couch)
Theo: Hammer! Hammer! Hammer! There! All fixed!
Alice: Great! Thank you! How much do I owe you?
Theo: 20 box!

Getting in the car this morning, a Police car drives past.
Theo: You tell the Police to get lost!
Alice…You mean, you tell the Police when you get lost, darling?
Theo: Yeah! And then they’ll ring Simon!
Alice: …You mean…Ring the siren?

This month I overheard you say:

Theo: Is that the go-er?
Mabel: No! that’s the stopper!

Theo: I’m going to give you a haircut!
Mabel: Okay!

Theo: That sounds naughty and dangerous.
Mabel: Lets do it!

*

Theo; you have learnt to say and spell Bob the Builder in 5 languages, and to use the covers of our videos to copy the titles for searching on you tube. You are endlessly inquisitive; you asked me the other day why the mandarins had freckles, and asked your sisters feet why they were under her socks. “Feet? I’m talking to you, Feet!”. She made them reply in a silly voice and we laughed and laughed. You are such a good brother and son.  I remember exactly, like some cellular memory, how I would burp you when you were a baby. Sit you up straight with my hand across your chest, lengthen you as best you are able to lengthen a slug, tilt you slighty forward and rub your back in an upwards motion. You’d wake every 2 hours, like clockwork. And I remember, so clearly that time; how everything changed, suddenly so focused. I remember the light from the lamp on top of the television, where I would sit on the couch and feed you those nights. The warm weight of you. I had no idea the little boy you’d turn into; though you feel it, somewhere. A knowing. I am so proud of the person you are.

Mae; you say ‘him is’ instead of his, ‘them is’ instead of theirs. Carrying you in, half asleep from the car, you pointed your little hand “Mama, the stars have them is lights on”. We roll around in my bed, most mornings, under blankets til the house warms up. One morning you sat up and said, very earnestly, “It’s a whole city and a whole world, Mama. It’s a difficult music. We need a day off”. I am so often struck by your wisdom. I never want to forget how you talk, you say things like “There is a yittle cup in your breadroom”, which makes me so happy. You have no ‘L’s, could just about be my favourite thing of all time, but still surprised me when you asked me the other day why I had a cock on my arm. “You mean a clock, darling? My watch?” “Yeah. Mama! Your cock! It’s shiny!”. Your favourite look at the moment is to wear tights with feet as pants, and I call you Edie Sedgewick and you say “No! I am Mabel!”. You told me, this month, that you didn’t want to be a girl, as I sat on the toilet doing a wee. That you wanted to have a penis like Theo and Daddy and Pappou, so you could wee in the ‘toilet hole’. And I wanted to reassure you, to extol the virtues of our sex. Damn the patriarchy! Girl power! I was almost shocked by the force of my own reaction. But instead, I said, “That’s okay, baby. You can be whoever you want to be”. And then we sat there a moment; you on the floor, and me on the toilet, and we waited while that information echoed inside us. I will always be there for you, to help it take hold.

*

And so, my loves, take heed: it’s not the life in your appliances, or even the appliance in your life – because where there is a will, there’s always a way; even if it’s not the way you had planned.

That I stay home, Friday nights, and write love letters to the best people I know, is proof. Ctrl V. Ctrl V.

Everything’s gonna work out, you’ll see.

Love,
Mama xx

January / February / March / April