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Dear Vera, A 20-Month Love Letter

Dear Vera,

Today is Valentine's Day and you are 20 months old. I told your dad last week that, in no uncertain terms, I'm not interested in Valentine's Day. I reminded him again this morning.

No flowers or cards, okay? I didn't get you anything.

Got it.

Of course, I added, if you're into it then I can make a bigger effort.

No that's fine, he said. I know you love me.

It's not that I don't believe in love, or romance for that matter. I definitely do. It's just that I'd rather do it on my own terms. Love is a big deal, kiddo. But it should come when you're ready and when you're open to it. My favorite Valentine's Day was the year my mom gave me a hot pink hair dryer. Now that was love.

A few years later when I was 18, mother wrote the following in a letter to me:

You said the other night, "Mom, don't let me marry a jerk." You'll meet so many men, will attract them like flies. You have that shy sweetness that men love. Don't marry anyone because of money, name, class, need of any kind.

Be so much in touch with who you are and what you really want — then it will happen, your complement will appear. Find yourself and you'll find your other self. Give each other space and respect. There can be no tiny, nagging doubt. The Italians have a name for it which I adore but have forgotten…but it's likened to being struck by a lightening bolt when you meet.

Accept nothing less. (Right. Nice idea though, huh?)

Have babies which I can take care of. Please choose a man who adores you and would never hurt you. But you also have a lot of other huge stuff to do in your life and I think it will take a lot of time to sort it all out.

I hope I know you well enough to write something like this to you one day. If I don't, or if I never get the chance, please accept the wise words above from your grandmother. They're good words. And she was right.

A few years after she was gone I was in Italy, and I asked around about that phrase, the one about being struck by lightening when you meet. Colpe di fulme, I was told. A few years after that I found that my mother had been right, about everything she wrote.

I met your father at the end of a really magical time in my life. I'd spent a period of months really getting to know myself, deeper than I ever had. At the very moment I felt the most me I'd ever felt in my life, your father appeared, and when I met him it was just like she said it would be: Like being struck by a bolt of lightening. I just knew.

Oh, I thought when I saw him, it's you.

We were standing in baggage claim at O'Hare airport. It was a warm May weekend, and in that very instant I realized that my whole life I'd been looking for someone and he was suddenly standing before me. I didn't even know until I saw him that I'd been looking in the first place.

I hope you find great love, my dear. Listen to your grandmother. Get to know yourself deep down where no one else knows you. Find yourself, you'll find your other self.

Also know that your grandmother would have adored you. She would have loved to take care of you, just like she said in her letter to me. I wish she'd gotten the chance. I'm just so glad that she left these letters for me and you to share.

Happy Valentine's Day, little one.



p.s. Your great grandmother (my dad's mom) was born on Valentine's Day! She was also the first female sheriff in the state of Michigan. Obviously we'll have to talk about that another time.


Read more letters to Vera here.


  1. Very beautiful.

    Comment by Evelyn on February 14, 2011 at 9:37 am

  2. Really lovely!

    Comment by Antonia on February 14, 2011 at 10:02 am

  3. Fantastic and touching and so incredibly kind ofyou to share with the world.

    Comment by Sandra on February 14, 2011 at 12:41 pm

  4. So sweet and very touching!! I know your mom is so proud of both of you!! She obviously did a great job! :)

    Comment by Jenny on February 14, 2011 at 12:47 pm

  5. I’m crying. That was so touching and wonderful. Thank you for sharing!

    Comment by Megan on February 14, 2011 at 1:26 pm

  6. Aw, thank you! Wish I could offer you a tissue!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on February 14, 2011 at 6:25 pm

  7. Aw, thank you so much. That is so nice of you to say, and so nice for me to read.

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on February 14, 2011 at 6:26 pm

  8. Wonderful! I’m so happy that you have those letters for both of you. How absolutely precious!

    Comment by Vanessa on February 15, 2011 at 12:00 am

  9. Thanks! I cant tell you how much I treasure my mothers letters.

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on February 15, 2011 at 8:55 am

  10. Aw, thank you!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on February 15, 2011 at 8:56 am

  11. Ooh, THANKS! Im excited to have the exact phrase!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on February 15, 2011 at 8:56 am

  12. Thank you, dear!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on February 15, 2011 at 8:56 am

  13. Thanks, Evelyn! Are you doing anything particular with your letters? Like printing them out? I feel like I should start getting organized.

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on February 15, 2011 at 8:57 am

  14. What wonderful advice. Your mother loved you so much, it’s so obvious. Obvious too is your love for your own daughter.
    I’m sighing and smiling contentedly. Love is lovely.

    Comment by Sophie on February 16, 2011 at 4:33 am

  15. Oh, thats nice of you to say. Thank you!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on February 16, 2011 at 3:04 pm

  16. This is the loveliest thing I’ve read in a long time. Your mother sounds like an amazing woman, and I agree with Sophie above in saying her love for you shines through.
    How bittersweet that she never got to be a grandmother to your gorgeous Veronica.
    Her letter is so beautiful and wise. What an indescribably special thing to have from her :)

    Comment by Ellie on February 17, 2011 at 4:15 am

  17. Oh, thats so nice of you to say. Thank you!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on February 17, 2011 at 2:46 pm

  18. Claire, this is Jami’s bff/MOH, Dinah. I’m a blog stalker extraordinaire and read yours semi-regularly. I just wanted to share with you that for a single girl it was refreshing to read:
    “Like being struck by a bolt of lightening. I just knew.
    Oh, I thought when I saw him, it’s you.”
    One can only hope. Lovely letters written by both you and your mother. Happy Vday to you, Greg and V!

    Comment by Dinah Jane Hutson on February 18, 2011 at 3:24 pm

  19. Oh, youre sweet. Hi Dinah! Ive heard lots about you from Jami! Glad you enjoyed this post. Hope you have your own lightening strike soon!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on February 19, 2011 at 5:50 pm

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