A few weeks ago, when I retrieved my belongings from the home I shared with my former husband, I found among the detritus of my life, a letter written to me by my mother on my first day of first grade 42 ½ years ago. It is the only letter I know of written to me by my mother; I don’t know when she actually gave it to me (I certainly couldn’t read it when it was written) and I don’t recall ever reading it before a few weeks ago. It is in pristine shape, as if she’d written it in the recent past.
The letter is about the closing and opening of doors from toddlerhood to childhood to womanhood and she asks that I “open doors slowly so that I may enjoy a very full and happy life.” She also tells me that “some of those doors will be happy and some of them sad. “ And that I “have to make my own decisions…but that she will be around any corner if I need and want her help…even if it’s just to talk. Love Mommie.” The last sentence says, “Enjoy yourself.”
For most of my adult life I have opened doors quickly, sometimes without thought of consequences. Behind some of those doors have been periods of prolonged happiness and joy; many of those doors hid unbearable sorrow and pain either immediately or some time after being opened but only one was a sort of Pandora’s box unleashing evil and insanity into my life last year and yes, I opened that door too quickly seven years ago.
I saw and remember the pain etched on my mother’s face last year when she and my father and sister picked me up after being arrested, over-charged with crimes I did not commit by a husband who hoped I’d kill myself as I had wanted to do the night my marriage ultimately fell apart because in his sick mind my death would mean he could keep everything I, and we as a couple, owned; as I sobbed for the loss of a marriage that wasn’t worth the paper it was written on; and as I sat through hearing after hearing in a court system that didn’t really care that all I wanted to do that night was die and nothing that happened had anything to do with his safety.
I have paid for that mistake and am free to carry on with opening and closing doors. At first I was gun-shy, not trusting whether I knew which doors to open and which to leave closed or to close quickly, once opened. Through it all, every turn, every success and every failure, my Mother was there. She fed me Maraschino cherries when she had to pull off a fingernail, tended to scraped knees, adopted kittens I brought home and hugged me when I cried. And last month, when the judge at my divorce hearing asked her if she thought there was any chance of reconciliation between me and the man who wished me dead, she stated without qualms or qualifications, “NOT IN THIS LIFETIME!”
Needless to say I cried when I read her letter of love and advice to me, written so long ago, when I was merely a child. It resonates with me today. I am the woman I am because of her. I didn’t always take her advice and to her credit, she didn’t give a lot of it. But what she told that little girl 42 years ago, she might well have told the woman who is her daughter just this last year.
I love you, Mommie and thank you. I am indeed happy.