The following is a letter to Elizabeth. Spoiler alert: it is unfiltered and unedited. I get a little vulnerable. You have been warned. Oh, and there is nothing wrong. Everything is perfect. This is what being a writer is all about…
You may read this soon, but I feel like you will not fully grasp it until much later.
Once when I was little, I wished I could turn back time. It was when I was about eight years old. I and my brother had forgotten to feed the dog. We were in deep, deep trouble (I thought at the time). We were told that when Choo Choo finally died, we were not to show any grief because we showed with our neglect that night that we did not care much for him. I was heart-broken and grief stricken. I prayed to God that he would turn back the clock and allow me another chance to make things right. A pretty heavy burden for an eight year old.
Tonight you wished out loud that you could turn back time. To have another chance to make things right. I remembered and felt the sorrow from that night many years ago. Believe me when I tell you that I know that feeling.
As you know, it has been hard lately to get Simone to stay in bed. She claims to be scared, or hungry, or not tired, or whatever she thinks will get us to let her stay up. None of it works. We make her go back to bed. And we threaten to turn off her light and shut her door (neither of which she likes). We make good on those threats. We put her in time out. We explain that she will be tired, tell her it is unacceptable, we do not tolerate the behavior, and we do all of the other things that the well-meaning parents of others might suggest. And by “suggest”, I mean “tell us what we are doing wrong or not doing right”. They are certain we are doing something wrong or not doing something that must be the right thing since their children never behaved this way. We even do all the things you suggest, Elizabeth. Because sometimes, even grown-ups run out of ideas.
So tonight, when I had already tried everything else, I suggested to Simone that maybe she would not be scared if she could have Poppy up there with her. She agreed. Relief and elation. So I watched her invite Poppy up the stairs with her and I went back to entertain our friends who were visiting from afar.
Next I heard the screaming. First I heard Simone. Then as I came closer I heard you. You were shooing Poppy back down the stairs and Simone was screaming bloody murder. By the time I made it to the top of the stairs, Poppy was gone. Simone was inconsolable. And you didn’t know what you had done wrong. I made you go to bed and I made sure you knew that, with Poppy gone, Simone was going to be crying for quite some time now.
I suppose it was about 20 or 30 minutes of threats, making good on threats, reasoning, pleading, and time outs. I asked what it was going to take to get you guys to go to bed. And you said you just wanted to go to sleep so it could all be over. Or, you said, you wanted to go back in time and start this evening over. So it could all be better. Or, you and Simone agreed, you wanted Mommy.
As I write you this letter, you are asleep. When you wake up, I’m sure all will be right with the world once again. I will assure you that the craziness was not your fault. Simone will be tired because she is just now falling asleep on the sofa across from me. And as for our guests from afar… At least they were able to keep each other company. And at least they had fun watching me run up and down the stairs.
I guess what I want you to know and why I’m writing you this letter is this. There is no need to turn back time. There is only now and here. We can only choose what to do with the now and here that we have. It is okay to mourn and to grieve for what might have been or what other choices we might have made. This mourning and this grief inform the present and guide our future. But in the end there is only here and only now. So, don’t let it get you down. Things always seem better in the morning.
I love you with all of my heart.