Circa 1987.

Hey there little girl,

It’s been awhile since we last talked.

Just wanted to let you know that I’ve been thinking about you–a lot. First, I gotta say–you are 100% sass and a half. Look at you! A red skirt! I don’t remember owning cowgirl boots back then, but I’d like to think you’re rocking them out. This calls for three snaps and a head roll, ‘aight? I’m so proud of your style.

I’ve been thinking about summers of kickball with the kids down the street, playing with Chum and Town and Jesse, the three guys around, because there were no other girls–except for summers when Tamika came from Florida to stay with Ms. Grayson.

I’ve been thinking about Tropical Punch kool-aid, and popsicles and bomb pops.

I’ve been thinking about how dad used to let us stay up until 2am on the hottest nights. “No one can sleep when it’s hot, anyway,” he said. And we agreed with him, didn’t we, because it was pretty cool to stay up that late, playing CandyLand and Parcheesi and Clue and Checker and Trouble and Connect Four.

I would want you to know that I can still kick some butt at Connect Four.

I’ve been thinking about how scared you were all those years, watching things happen around you and thinking, “This is pretty messed up.” Adults are funny creatures, aren’t they? They kind of expect you to bend to their will and do what they say–not as they do. And you saw that and didn’t understand it, but you learned how to stay out of the way. You were really smart like that.

I’ve been thinking about how brave you were, how courageous you were. I’ve been thinking about how you lived with your whole heart, making art and writing books and playing piano and climbing trees and running faster faster faster than the boys and when they started cussing, or when they peed in corners, you looked in the other direction–but girl, you sure didn’t run off scared, did you? You could hang with that.

I’ve been thinking about how you lived so BIG that you were always scuffing your elbows and knees and my fingers run tenderly over those scars today. They are my most sacred tattoos, the scars that you gave me, the ones that you risked because you were willing to live with a heart that wide open, with passion unmasked. Running more carefully would have involved living less fully alive, and you weren’t about to do that.

I’ve been thinking about how/when being brave and courageous turned into steeling your small frame against chaos–look at those little bones, that tiny little frame, how could it hold all of that?–and sacrificing you, becoming the adult that you needed to become, early, in order for us to survive.

I would want to thank you for understanding the concept of sacrifice even better than the adults around you. To sacrifice a childhood is the ultimate sacrifice.

I would want to thank you for loving me too big to ever let my heart close entirely, too big to let others convince me that my tears were weak, too big to ever stop wishing and dreaming. I am in awe of your indomitable spirit, your refusal to become a cynic in the face of everything. I am so honored to have grown forth from you.

I would want to let you know that your sacrifice was not in vain–that in the end, we did get to create the life we wanted, didn’t we? In the end, we do get to choose a life that has a lot of PLAY in it.

I would want you to know how happy I am to be making up for lost time. Almost every day has a bit of play in it, now, and when it doesn’t, I appreciate that you remind me of its necessity. It’s kind of cool to get older and then recreate childhood, do it all a second time.

And this time, we get to do it right.

Do it the way it could have been done–with PLAY and hugs and kisses and love and reminders every day that you/I, are/am, exactly enough.

Thanks for hanging in there, so that we could get to this space. I love you.

~ me ~

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