I’ve been doing a great deal of writing lately (well, because that’s what I do) and thought I’d share a few miscellaneous pieces with you. This one I found in an old file labeled “Letters To My Children.” It was written for my (then) 5-year-old scaredy-cat daughter… who comes by that moniker quite honestly.
Dear Mary Claire,
Only five years old, yet your little mind is filled with dark dungeons, spooky full moons, and monsters lurking in the dark. For over two months now, we’ve let you sleep with George—hoping beyond hope that it will make you feel secure in your own home. You told Nana that you “only need to touch someone in the nighttime” to feel safe. That makes my heart hurt.
I constantly walk the fine line between teaching you independence and holding you safely in my arms like a Mother Bear, growling at anything and everything that might cross your path. You’ve come into my room so many times in the wee hours of the morning. Your tell-tale tap, tap, tap on my forehead signals another bad dream; another night of your hot, sweaty little body wrapping itself around me in an attempt to feel secure.
When I was your age, it was werewolves under my bed. They were always there, waiting for their chance to pull me under. If I didn’t keep my arms and legs tucked tightly under the covers, they would gobble me up with their hungry mouths. If I looked at the light shining through the doorway, they would be standing there in a fog of rancid breath, waiting to attack. As a young girl, those werewolves rendered me useless night after night. Nana would tell me that it was just my imagination, but they were so real, I could hear their stealthy footsteps. I could feel the warmth of their breath in my ears when I closed my eyes. They were as palpable to me as the arms and legs I kept safely hidden; their hearts beat in time with my own. And just to clarify, this was long before the “Twilight” era. I was afraid of werewolves before werewolves were cool—and strikingly handsome.
The fear that has taken residence in your heart and in your mind is not foreign to me, and yet I don’t know how to alleviate your worries. I don’t know how to convince you that I would lay down my life to protect yours; that I would face any werewolf, any monster, any boogeyman to keep you safe. Conveying that truth to you, in itself, creates a nightmare of its own, doesn’t it? Nana used to tell me she’d much rather die herself than to lose me or your Aunt Carrie. She said it was nature’s natural course. In fact, I knew that if I lost my mother, my own young life would be over. So, what is the comfort of your mother coming to your defense when those werewolves might very well take away the one thing that matters more than your own existence?
When you were younger, I told you that Jesus was always with you. He was with you when you were lonely, he was with you when you laughed with your friends, he was with you in the darkest of nights. That’s what my elementary school nuns taught me; it seemed right to pass that information on to you. I now believe the thought of this ghostly man who was crucified on a cross inhabiting your room scared you more than anything else. You often asked me, “Where is Jesus? Is he in my closet? Is he outside my window? Is he watching me?” I’m sure the thought of him making an appearance while you were alone at night was more unnerving than any werewolf. Sometimes our parenting decisions—made with the best intentions—come back to haunt us. Not literally, of course. I didn’t really mean to say “haunt,” Honey.
The movie “Poltergeist” came out when I was way too young to see it. Believing myself to be a tough tomboy, however, I convinced Nana to let me watch it. Nana, as you may know by now, is not afraid of anything. The thought of skeletons cavorting in a freshly dug swimming pool didn’t faze her in the least. She was a master at separating fiction from reality—a trait that you and I didn’t necessarily inherit. After watching the movie, I couldn’t let Nana know I was afraid. She would say, “Katrina, you’re being silly. There’s nothing real about that movie. Your imagination is working overtime. Now go to sleep.” So instead of begging her for comfort and security, I prayed like I had never prayed before. I threw away all my toy clowns, and I stopped watching TV at night lest the spirits decided to speak to me through the wires. My prayer was simply, “Dear God, please don’t let any poltergeists show themselves to me. If it is Your will that they be in my room, please let them remain silent and invisible.” I thought that was a good bargain to strike with God. I wasn’t challenging His will, yet I was still protecting myself.
Over thirty years have passed since that time, and my fears are almost gone. Sometimes I even feel as brave as Nana. Here’s what made the difference: Sam, Gus, George, and you. Being responsible for the safety and well-being of four little human beings makes you braver than you ever thought possible. You don’t understand it now, but someday you will. Mother Bears will walk through fire for their cubs. Mother Bears will do battle with werewolves and pool skeletons and spooky toy clowns to make their babies feel safe.
Your home is your soft place to land. Always know that. Your dad and I would do anything in the world to surround you with a bubble of safety and comfort and peace. Life on the outside can be tough sometimes, but our arms are your safe place to land—forever and always. Sweet dreams, sweet girl.