I want to tell you about all the summers the two of you stripped down naked in the backyard and ran with arms wide open into the sun and through the freezing, glistening splash of the garden hose, your small, soft bodies reflecting the sky and the innocence of a moment that will inevitably get stripped away with the years.
I want to remind you of the time that no voice of reason could stop you from taking a running leap toward that puddle of mud that always pools up in front of our driveway after a spring thaw or a summer rain. Not that I ever really wanted to stop you. Because what’s a little mud in the beginning of the story of a life that could take you anywhere, send you right back where you landed or find you fighting every day to be brave, to do the right thing, to reconcile mistakes or to let go?
You don’t know what any of this means yet. You are too fresh to this world. That’s why I’m writing to you. Because I want you to know there was a time that you felt safe enough, loved enough, free enough, happy enough and beautiful enough to strip down and squeal at the sky. And while you ran naked and free in our backyard, the world was standing up to yell “enough enough enough!”
That’s what happens when you have a voice, dear daughters. You can sing, you can coo and whisper. You can tell stories out loud to yourself in the dark of your room about unicorns with sparkling tails to help you fight the worry of the monsters in your closet. And you can comfort your friends with that voice. You can whine and complain. You can ask a thousand questions. A million. And you can answer them.
You can shush shush shush a baby, or a skittish pony, or your sister who won’t leave you alone. And you can yell. Yes, you can yell.
But first. First. First, you need to listen.
Because yes, you have a voice. But you also have ears, dear daughters. And let me be clear here. You don’t get to use one without the other.
Dear daughters, you were born with blue eyes and blond hair and the dirt of this earth under your fingernails, the wind in your lungs, the grass bent under your feet and the stories of your blessings and your struggles, they will be forever in your mouth.
And make no mistake, your story is precious. But it is not more precious than your neighbor’s.
And as much as you want to tell yours, so that you can be seen, so that you can be loved or understood or helpful or praised or protected or trusted, please remember, please always know, your neighbor wants the same.
Dear daughters, right now you are little and wiggly and hungry and wild and innocent, and no reasonable voice can stop you from jumping in those puddles. But I am your mother and it is my job to love you and teach you and today, even though you’re too young to understand it, I need to tell you, I have to tell you, that the best, most useful gift you can give to your neighbor, to the world, is an open heart.
Even when it’s heavy. Or broken. Or tired. Or angry. Or confused. Or hurt beyond repair…
And so, dear daughters, today I’m going to plant the garden. Some people will tell me it’s too late in the season, but I won’t believe them. Because I’ve always had hope, even in times I had to dig to the dark, damp, chilled places on this earth, I find it.
Because even if it’s too late for the pumpkins or the watermelon, I know I can grow a peapod. And won’t it taste sweet on a hot July day when you run out naked into the backyard, arms stretched out to the sun!
Dear daughters, I love you. Now go love others.
From the bottom of my heart,
You are saying so much more.. in your refreshing way, Jessie Veeder. Your girls (and neighbors all) are fortunate that you are ‘mommying’ them that way.. (your husband does his part, too.. I am sure..). Thank you for helping us see how important it is to parent wisely like this..
Your story is wonderful,brings tears and memories of our 3 girls from years ago. Hope your health doing ok. My grandmother wa a Veeder by 4 cornors., shack still stands by Hendersons.
Very cool history!
This is a beautiful letter to your daughters, Jessie! Sending love and best wishes.
This makes me cry with it’s truth.
You have so much insight into life and I really appreciate reading such a positive and intuitive letter. Your girls are so lucky to have you and your husband as parents. I look forward to reading every one of your columns. They always brighten my day!
I hear you! Not the first time but the first time from you. I had a mother on this earth at one time and she spoke of the same things! 🙂 I hear her again through you!! Thank You!!!
I know you will update us all when you can, and please know you and your family are still in our thoughts and prayers.
I hope you are having your blog printed as a wonderful gift to your daughters when they are grown.
Ohh, that’s a wonderful letter! Your daughters are so lucky to have a wonderful mother.