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Dear Vera: A Letter About Now and Then and When

Dear Vera,

You woke up from a nightmare at 5:30 this morning and your dad brought you into bed with us. You curled and shifted and pressed against me, whispering in my ear and twisting and turning until your warm, little body finally went still and your breathing evened out, my arms wrapped tight around you. I held onto you and listened to you sleep.

I love these moments with you more than anything, curled as close as we can be, still and peaceful and quiet. Then you and your father were both sleeping, on either side of me, and I lay awake for a while, listening to you breathing. Light crept through the blinds and I thought about how there will be a time, probably not too far from now, when I’ll miss these moments. You’ll grow and stretch away from me, finding your own way into the world, finding other warm spots against which to rest, other arms to hold you tight.

I thought about being a teenager and how I felt about my own mother. We hugged and were affectionate, but at age 17 I didn’t remember the closeness we once shared, surely identical to that I have with you now. I never could have imagined my body flush against hers, breathing and quiet and together. But I know now that she remembered, that she probably held those memories and moments dear, that she probably looked at my lanky, adolescent form and sometimes wished for me to be a child again, just so that she could hold me close.

I wish now that I had let her. Especially at the end.

I know that there will be a time when you are just as I was. There will be a time when you do not remember this time, when you do not crave my arms around you. And when that time comes, I will tell you about now and show you this letter. And you’ll roll your eyes at me and I’ll smudge away the tears smarting in my own, and I’ll pull you close anyway.

Just as my mother did.




  1. I love your writing, Claire. My brothers and I are all in our twenties, and after some time off during adolescence, are once again affectionate with our parents. I still catch my grown-up brothers holding hands with my Dad or lying with their head in Mum’s lap in front of the TV. It’s a beautiful thing and one that I’m sure you’ll have with your kids as they get older too :)

    Comment by Naomi on January 12, 2012 at 12:27 pm

  2. Yes, those moments curled up close and secure will be forgotten by Vera. Taken for granted and just a plain fabric of love and trust on which she can embroider her own designs.

    Comment by Paul Tredgett on January 13, 2012 at 6:49 am

  3. beautiful Claire! One of my favorite memories was just this – thank you for reminding me

    Comment by antonia on January 13, 2012 at 7:47 am

  4. I love this.

    Comment by Stacy Geyer on January 13, 2012 at 3:21 pm

  5. like you, i will forever feel that i could have been closer to my mother as i grew older–how little i thought about what it must have been like for her to see her sons grow up and away. to me, she was just “mom”, and i loved her dearly. but to her, i was her “child”, and i have some perspective now on how that love is a love that perhaps will never be surpassed. maybe moms all over have to comfort themselves with the same memories you write of, knowing that their children need to pull away. and yet the tears still come…

    Comment by Tony Davis on January 14, 2012 at 2:23 pm

  6. Gee Claire – way to make me get teary!

    Comment by jo on January 15, 2012 at 3:19 am

  7. Wow! Beautifully said. My youngest is 19 and she still comes home from college and curls up on the couch and wants to snuggle, the older two never would do that but every now and then they hug me just a little longer than usual and I know they are feeling that mother’s love we all crave. Thank you for putting it so beautifully.

    Comment by Karen K on January 15, 2012 at 6:42 am

  8. Oof, sorry Jo! It made me cry to write it, if that makes you feel any better!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on January 15, 2012 at 8:31 am

  9. Glad to give you some perspective, Tony. xoxo

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on January 15, 2012 at 8:33 am

  10. Thanks, Stacy!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on January 15, 2012 at 8:33 am

  11. Aw, love that Antonia!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on January 15, 2012 at 8:34 am

  12. They won’t be forgotten by me, Paul.

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on January 15, 2012 at 8:34 am

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