All I Have are Words
“I admire anybody who has the guts to write anything at all.”
― E.B. White
Dear Evan and Lulu,
Sometimes I worry that when you are old enough to actually read these letters you are going to roll your eyes and storm out of the room, disgusted that all I’ve managed to capture of your childhood are words strewn together with missing punctuation and alternating tenses. I recently explained this blog to someone stating “All I have to give them are words.” That is in fact how it started. I couldn’t bring myself to capture moments through pictures that would lie pressed between static pages of overpriced photo albums. Or even worse, plastered onto colorful paper with puffy stickers that declare things like “joy” or “celebrate”. What would a stranger think if they picked up a tattered page with your face peeking out between pastel flowers and cookie cutter designs? Would they know that Lulu likes to dance on furniture? Could they tell that we have to pry her off the back of the couch, the top of the table, and that last year she twirled too hard and went flying into the Christmas Tree? Would they see that Evan hops around the house on one foot simply to break her own record? That she collects nerves like lint on denim until she jumps from one stair higher than she did the time before? Could anything capture the way we dance and hop through life like words can?
When I was a child and I was sick my mother used to tell me “I wish I could take this from you and be the sick one instead.” I saved those words. I didn’t even know I kept them until I was wedged against Evan’s bed frame, trying to make a daybed into a Queen sized space, stroking her forehead and whispering words I didn’t even remember until I said them. Words that followed me through years of childhood, decades of childlessness, and somehow surfaced when I needed them most. I had the words all along, even though I couldn’t quite reach them, because my own mother gave them to me years ago.
I want to give you the words in these letters not because they are all I have, as I once said, but because they are what I choose to give.
I want to give you words because they will ground you when you need it. If you have lost your way, or you haven’t even started your trip, these words will help you take just one more step.
“I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.”
-Hafiz of Shiraz
I want to give you words because they will save you from the mundane, from the unknown, and sometimes even from your own reality. They will show you worlds you could never see, people you could never meet, and provide solace you never knew you needed.
Paul said to Petey
“You gotta rock yourself a little harder,
Pretend the dove from above is a dragon and your feet are on fire”
And I got a girl in the war, Paul the only thing I know to do
Is turn up the music and pray that she makes it through
Mostly I want to give you words because I think they are the most powerful gift a person could give. Nothing can ignite a person like forceful words can. Nothing can expand minds like beautifully crafted sentences can. Nothing can change our lives as quickly, as permanently, or as drastically as words can.
“As a woman I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman, my country is the whole world.”
— Virginia Woolf
I’m choosing to give you words so you can decide for yourself what you want to do with them. Maybe you will just glance over them and roll your eyes. And that is OK. Maybe years later you will regret that action and you will come back to the words. They will still be there waiting for you. Maybe at some point you will actually let the words pour over you and sink in one letter at a time. Perhaps you’ll sit down and write you own words back, letting them change you while they also change the world. I know your words can do that.
If all I have are words, I think I have everything we could ever need.