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Dear Vera & Jules: Think of Me as Every Place

Dear Vera & Jules,

It’s Christmas afternoon in Los Angeles, warm and sunny, and there is still sand between my toes from our walk on the beach today. You both woke up promptly at 6AM, excited to see what Santa brought for you, and if he liked the cookies you made for him, and Vera you swore up and down all day that you heard Rudolph noisily eating the carrots we left out for him in the middle of the night.

Under the tree was a new bicycle, and a toy kitchen I spent several painful hours building this week, as well as dozen of little toys. I’m not ashamed to admit that I love giving you presents and this year I made an attempt to give you things that would enrich you and help you grow (art supplies and interesting books), and as well as the things that I knew you really wanted. I have to say it was actually most gratifying to watch you open the things I knew you were hoping to unwrap.

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Jules, for weeks every time we go to Target you’ve planted yourself in front of this box that includes two little babies with a set of bunk beds. This morning when you opened it up you screeched, “babies!” and clutched them to your chest like as though they were already your most prized possessions. It was such a simple thing to buy you, but knowing that in that moment you probably felt really seen, like someone had noticed this thing you so wanted, gave you (and me) more than any enriching puzzle ever could.

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Vera you got all the Barbie and My Little Pony stuff you had begged for all month, and I know you felt happy and seen as well. But it was actually watching you take on your unexpected gift, the new big girl bike your Dad picked out for you, that really made my heart swell. It was the thing you came around to last, after playing thoroughly with ALL of your other toys, but then you rode all the way down to the end of the block and back, your little sister watching with wide-eyed admiration.

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Witnessing your relationship blossom has been the true highlight of this year for me. The bond between you two has utterly changed the way I view the world and relationships and love. You were born for each other, and the love you share is something that will stand apart from all other experiences in your lifetimes. I truly think much of the time that you will always be okay, as long as you have each other. Even if something were to happen to me or your dad, the two of you would forge together even closer to take on the world. And you’re going to take it on anyway.

Watching you together gives me a strange peace that I never had before Juliette came into our lives. I was always fretting about you, Veronica, about what would happen if I wasn’t there with you for every second. But now that has shifted. Although we are just as close as ever, Juliette has become your true touchstone. You look out for her with everything that you do, always including her, thinking of her, showing her love and affection. It fills me up like nothing else in this world ever has.

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Speaking of the two of you having each other, I’m writing this letter an hour before a taxi arrives to take me to the airport so that I can get on an airplane to Indonesia. Tomorrow morning you will get on your own plane with your dad and head to Ohio to see your grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, and we will be farther apart than we ever have been before.

I can’t lie. To travel this far away from you almost drives me to my knees with apprehension. But I also know it’s something I need to do, and something that will be good for all of us in the long run. I know that the two of you will have a ball with your cousins, be doted on more than you can imagine by your grandparents, and that your dad will take perfect care of you because he always does.

And I will fill this need in me that I can never seem to deny. This thirst for the world and adventure and distance and all things unexpected. It’s what makes me who I am, it’s the pulse that courses through me. It’s what makes me tick, what makes me ache, and what gives me peace.

But listen, while I’m gone, I want you to know that I’ll be thinking of you every single second. You are both part of me. You came out of my body and the love I have for you girls is boundless. It defies space and time and life and death. It transcends any boundary you could ever imagine.

I read a line in a poem once that said, “Think of me as every place,” and that’s what I want you to do. For the rest of your lives. No matter how far apart we are, even in death one day, I will always love you. I will always be with you. And you will always be with me.

Okay, so in eight days we’ll all meet back here in the land of endless sunshine, and we’ll snuggle for hours and tell each other all about all of our adventures.

Love,

Mom

p.s. Vera, I know I promised to bring home a pet monkey for you, but I was lying. Trust me, you don’t really want one anyway.

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13 Comments

  1. Lovely, Claire. I cannot imagine what it will be like for these girls to have your letters as they become adults. To know what you were thinking, feeling, seeing, and watching. When I lost my mother, I begged my older sister to tell me stories of her from the time before I was born. They enriched my view and appreciation of her immensely, and did wonders for my own self-understanding. I am so glad you get a chance to go on a New Year’s adventure. As you say, you will carry them with you. With mothers and children, there is never really any separation. And that is how is should be. Happy Holidays.

    Comment by Tony Davis on December 25, 2013 at 5:02 pm

  2. Beautiful, Claire. (And great ending!) Enjoy your adventures and the peace of knowing how well your darlings are cared for.

    Comment by Lille Smallwood on December 25, 2013 at 5:51 pm

  3. Oh, Claire. This is such a beautiful letter to your daughters. I’m in tears as I feel such a connection to what you’ve written, both as a mother with a similar thirst and sense of adventure, and as a sister. Thank you for sharing this. I love the line “Think of me as every place”. Love.

    So glad you have the perspective to know that the girls will be well cared for and loved while on their own adventure, and that the reunion when you can cuddle and share all you’ve done will be precious and something to look forward too. It gives them wings…they’re learning from you how to be.

    Happy trails in Bali.
    Can’t wait to see the photos.
    Michelle

    Comment by Michelle on December 26, 2013 at 5:55 am

  4. Claire- so beautifully expressed! I am inspired to start writing letters to my own 14 month old daughter so she too will have a window into my heart and soul beyond my role as mother. I definitely wish I had this from my own mom, even though she is still with me, as I think feelings, desires, and thoughts all fade and dilute with time. Your words are such a treasure for your girls.

    Comment by Joanna on December 26, 2013 at 12:07 pm

  5. I too see how wonderful and important these letters will be to your children. It is good to hear from you again. I re-read your second to last post the other day and maybe realized what you were saying. I don’t know you but wish you peace and happiness.

    Comment by Sarah on December 26, 2013 at 2:13 pm

  6. I have just had a similar experience with my grandson, except that he left me this morning, instead of me traveling off! Thanks for your words, and I look forward to our interview.

    Comment by Cheryl Jones on December 26, 2013 at 9:34 pm

  7. Such a beautifully expressed letter to your girls. I especially loved the part about fulfilling your own need for adventure and travel–I had a dream about just that sort of thing myself last night after driving all the way home to Berkeley from San Diego with our 3 cherished little ones crowded into the back seat.

    I lived in South Pasadena for 6 years and went to grad school in LA–I so enjoyed your book and also your IG feed. Have a glorious time in Indonesia and yes, your girls will be just fine.

    PS. I have a dear, dear friend who lives in Santa Monica and is 31 weeks pregnant with her first baby. The bad news is that her mama, also very dear to me, is dying of ovarian cancer and will likely not make it to her child’s birth. I wonder if you are still offering counseling and if I could send her your way . . .

    Comment by Melissa Neta on December 27, 2013 at 7:02 pm

  8. Claire, so wonderful to hear from you again. I have watched your blog carefully in recent months, thirsting for your particular brand of wisdom as I grappled with my mom’s death, my marriage’s end, and f**king Christmas. I hope you have the most wonderful trip, and thank you for continuing to share with us.

    Comment by Ellen on December 28, 2013 at 11:41 am

  9. Hi Claire, I would love to know what poem that beautiful line came from…”Think of me as every place”. Thanks!

    Comment by Mary Pat on December 29, 2013 at 6:32 pm

  10. As a child, I had an irrational fear of losing my parents whenever they were late getting home, traveling, or the least bit sick. As an adult, who faced those childhood fears, I stood strong when my mom
    battled breast cancer and my dad stuck it to his stroke. I sometimes think about 2011-2012 and wonder why I didn’t melt into a puddle of tears and fears like the child version of me worrying that my parents died at the grocery store or on vacation. And I think it’s because I know that they’re with me – part of who I am and who I want to be.
    Thank you for your perspective and openness.

    Comment by Megan @ mnmeditations on January 4, 2014 at 11:32 pm

  11. Beautifully written. As always. I feel the same about the relationship I see developing between my own girls, ages 4.5 and 1.5. It is amazing. It humbles me and fills me with joy.

    Hope it’s been a safe and happy trip – for you and for the rest of your fam!

    Comment by Jen in SC on January 5, 2014 at 6:39 pm

  12. Hi Claire, It’s Jen from Doe Bay. I just read this post and love the message. I think about my girls as sisters, but, as I have two sisters myself, I have not thought about the preciousness of their bond in the way that you have. I seem to have taken it for granted. Thank you for opening my eyes to this unseen blessing. Much love to you and your adventure(s).

    Comment by Jen on January 6, 2014 at 1:46 pm

  13. Gorgeous words…

    Comment by Julie on January 17, 2014 at 9:56 am

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