Dearest Anne, my full of grace girl:
It’s International Women’s Day today, a day for celebrating women and raising awareness for the issues faced by our sisters around the world. And yet, I find myself thinking of you.
It seems sometimes like you were born without a rib cage around your heart – you are so tender, so wide open, so innocent and welcoming that I can hardly bear it. You love so quickly and easily without thought of looks or creed, economics or appropriateness, borders or demarcations. You are so full of love that you can’t even fathom the cruel games that other girls try to play against you. Your default setting is trust, forgiveness offered before asked.
So I want to be your rib cage, to protect your heart from bruises or breakage but the truth is that your heart is strong and wide for its very exposure. And you are so brave in your innocence, I learn from you. You made me a mother, small girl, and suddenly my own ribs are cracked and I am reacquainted with my own thumping too-tender self, discovering a wide family of sisterhood. Spirit of love, no fear even when it comes sneaking around to intimidate.
I claim my corner of your life and half of your blood, for the teaching of the big nouns and verbs of love and peace, justice and mercy, faith and laughter, servanthood and courage, the sacredness of work and beauty through the small daily life we live together now. There isn’t much drudgery in laundry and dishes anymore, in making my family the centre of my life. I have found God in these small tasks because, together, we are learning. Nor do I find despair in working for freedom, equality, mercy and justice in our own family ways because together we are learning hope and making space for God.
You see, you remind me a lot of myself. You may look like your dad but in your heart of hearts, you carry my temperament and personality. Sometimes that thrills me. Other times, it terrifies me. Because I simply want to tip over and pour everything of my own self out for you.
And knowing that you take after me in the good ways and in the let’s-be-honest-I’m-a-wreck-sometimes ways, I feel like I could write a book of rules and wisdom hard earned. Stupid things like, hey, don’t dye your hair black (trust me – it never washes out) and also, Charlie perfume makes a really poor cover-up for the smell of cigarette smoke and someday you’ll look back on all of that bad poetry you wrote and laugh until you cry. I know we’ll get to those ridiculous stories of my life, the ones that make you laugh at me or roll your eyes. But I’ll also tell you my other stories about how I fell in love with your dad and what I think love looks like, how I love you and your brother and Tiny #3, deep in my marrow. I’ll trace the line of time backwards for you until you see the women that came before you in a great cloud of witnesses for your life. Not to burden you, small pixie, but to empower you. After all, there are hard-working, brave, crazy, passionate blood-women pulsing in that exposed heart of yours and you took in their guts and soul with your mother’s milk.
We are thumping along with you, out here in the world now, reminding you that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. And you have a voice and a reason for being. You have a future and a hope. Know who you are, small girl, and when you forget, we’ll remind you. You are already a girl after God’s own heart.
How am I so blessed as to raise you up into womanhood? Your own story will be a beautiful thing to see unfold and I’m privileged for my front-row seat. You have helped me to see every other mother in the world with walls-crumbling-down eyes, every little girl could have your face and now it’s not enough just to raise you well to a suburb with a mini-van to go to church on Sunday and pay your taxes. I am learning the counter-cultural in my own life and sowing it with prayer into your own life. A life that tells a story of love because every girl could be you, every mama could be me and every woman could be us so we speak up, we pray, we sow our seed in hope and faith.
This morning, we sat together and you asked me if I remembered when you were a baby and how we used to make each other laugh. I think you must have been looking at old pictures of that happening (but who knows? maybe you do remember?). And I say, Yes, yes, I do remember. And you said, We loved each other right from the start, didn’t we?
Yes, yes we did.