“It must be hard not having custody of your daughter and being so far away. What’s that like?” she asked, something like sympathy in her voice.
I swirled my wine. “Impossible.”
She waited for more, but there’s just no more to say. I reserve my darkest, most desperate thoughts for my diary, and my most hopeful ones for the correspondence I send to my daughter 2,000 miles away.
I went home that night and thought how it doesn’t matter what it’s like for me, how badly it feels, how impossible it is. That isn’t the important part. The important part is the ever-present and enduring love between a mother and her child. The important part is that my daughter knows the important part.
I ripped a piece of paper from my tear-stained journal and scribbled this note to her:
I once thought myself incapable of love, and in love’s truest form, I was…until you.
I’ve fallen for you a million times. The soft petals of your cheeks, your liquid eyes, the chocolate chip freckle on the nape of your neck. The way your happiness bubbles up and erupts from your mouth like an orchestra of the most complex music I’ve never heard and how your tears tasted salty-sweet on my kiss.
You’re growing up. We’re miles apart. I loathe the pink rhinestones on the back of those jeans your grandma bought at Gap and the way you talk about your cleaning lady with disdain, but no time, distance or circumstance could ever change a damn thing about my love for you.
You told me you were a Methodist. You told me you don’t like cilantro anymore. You told me you’re a Wyoming girl now. There is nothing you could ever say that will change the maternal, eternal nature of my love.
I keep the pretty pictures you send me in the mail, and the ugly ones too. I keep your first stuffed animal tucked here under my pillow. I keep an ever-growing “List to Live by” of important things I want to tell you. But, for now, here is just these few:
– Don’t knock it ’til you try it.
– Say “please” and “thank you” whenever the situation warrants it.
– Reserve “I’m sorry” for when you truly are.
– Never answer the phone at the dinner table.
– Monsters are real, and they live inside us. Make friends with yours.
– Your body, your rules. Seriously.
– It’s OK to cry and smash things when you’re hurt. But, wash your face and clean up your mess when you’re finished.
– Get up and try again. And again. And again.
– If you’re going to curse, be clever and know your audience.
– Question everything, except your own intuition.
Most of what you need to know about life you’ve already learned or have always known, like the lyrics to The Beatles’ “Blackbird,” and how good mustard is on French fries, and that unicorns are real. (Although, you may not realize yet that the unicorn I’m talking about is you.)
On the phone, we tell each other that someday we’ll be together again, and we’ll live near the beach where the air smells of salt water taffy and the water is the shade of your eyes. I don’t know if it’s true. But, I know this and you should always know it too:
I love you.
I folded the paper in half and put it in the shoebox where I keep all the other little tokens I will give her one day. The most important of these? The true story of a mother’s love, from a distance.