Letter to my daughter

My epistolary poem, “Miss Amelia Skye” (“Dear Amelia”) was just published in Bella Grace magazine. Amy Krause Rosenthal’s book, Dear Girl, was the inspiration behind the format. I have since created a Mixbook of this poem for my daughter (who will be turning 5 months in a few days); this book will go into a time capsule for her to open at the stroke of midnight in the year 2042 (which will make her 21, if my math is correct). 🙂

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When Age Was No Longer Numbered

When the world no longer aged,
learning did not cease
but development did.
Husbands loved their expectant wives
with their rounded bellies & tiger mom stripes,
& the mothers loved their little one(s) within,
who floated as if in a state of suspended animation,
the mothers,
in suspended celebration.
The babies born were loved for who they were
& who they would never become.
Developmental milestones became a thing of the past;
educational milestones became the next big thing.
There were no more birthdays—
just calendars marking each day
since the last birthday had been celebrated;
there were anniversaries, however,
for Time continued marching on,
leaving a lighter bootprint
with every passing year.

It was an era of endless childhood:
of childhood sweethearts who would never marry,
of teenagers who would never know wisdom,
of young parents who would never become grandparents,
& of grandparents who would never pass away.
Those who loved their age loved their lives;
those who wished to be young again would be old forever;
& those who wished to grow up would never know independence,
for no matter how much they learned,
they would never mature.
There were no more conceptions or births,
no more deaths from old age but unnatural causes.
Those who loved what they did would do it seemingly forever,
& those who did not
could not bear an eternity of hating their livelihood,
so they went back to school
in acknowledgment & the reclaiming of their perpetual personhood,
for they had all the time in the world.

In this reverse Groundhog Day,
where the days changed, but the routine did not—
the world began to live in an almost hypnagogic state,
for the only promise of tomorrow was that it would come.
For some,
this cessation was the spring of eternal life,
for others,
a never-ending winter.
And for those who were too young to know any better,
it was all they knew.

Her Magical Childhood

1954 (10)

Her childhood had been sweet,
filled with marshmallow hugs & chocolate kisses,
of butterfly, angel, & Eskimo kisses,
of kisses that flew from her hands like cosmic dust
to decorate the sky,
& of kisses from Grandma
from that gold-paved paradise over the rainbow;
of stork bites & tales from the Cabbage Patch,
& monsters in the closet & under the bed
that disappeared with the always precise aim
of Mom’s crafty glue gun;
of make-believe games & make-it-yourself puzzles;
of art class with junk mail scraps & broken crayons,
& a refrigerator that had become a museum gallery,
with Lego magnets holding up hodgepodge collages;
of music class with the laminated lyrics
of hymns, folk songs, & Christmas carols;
of PE in the park,
field trips to everyday places,
& lunch where cookie butter & Nutella sandwiches
were always on the menu;
of science class on the beach & Sunday school under the trees;
of math class with numbers that had special significance—
in her life or the lives of others or the history of the world;
of a 24/7 library with fairy tales, folk tales, & tall tales,
& thick scrapbooks that told the family history—
the history she would end up repeating—
that of happy marriages & childhoods,
with written instructions & real-life examples
on how to make them happen.

1954 (2)

The Homeschooling Mama’s Dilemma

Pledge

The frazzled, second-time mama,
whose nerve endings were frayed,
grieved for the time she robbed from Penny to spend on Polly,
for the times she snapped at Penny because of Polly,
& for the times she did not even hear Penny because of Polly,
whose color of hangry ranged from tomato red to beet purple.
As the principal of Sally Jane Richards’ Homeschool for the Housebound
(& wife of the dean)
cradled her colicky cuddlebug,
her other hand reached out to reassure her doodlebug—
this shiny new piece of change who had come into her life
without a heads-up & put her into a temporary tailspin—
that Book Club & Reading Club,
Math with Monopoly Money,
A.M. & P.M. Bingo,
Wheel of Fortune-inspired Hangman,
& Alphabet Soup & Word Salad with Bananagrams,
had to wait for the not-so-secret formula
to do its disappearing noise magic trick.

The Loveliest Bones

Bebe shoes

Since reaching late thirtysomething,
Anne had wanted to know what it was like
to have a child who would tell her she loved her
without prompting,
& the awareness she saw in the weeks-old bundle
was sometimes more than she had seen
in the years-old bundle
who was crawling towards the age of accountability.
As she looked at her children,
one cradled in one arm,
the other,
snuggled under the arm that had yet to fall asleep,
she knew there was not one daughter she preferred over the other,
for how could one choose a right eye over a left?
This mother—
a family tree whose feminine, blue-eyed branches
reached for the sun in opposite directions—
brought the fruits of her labours closer to Solomon’s twin fawns.
When Anne of the 1000-plus days looked to her husband,
the king of her 900-square foot castle,
she saw confirmation & absolution of her beliefs,
reflected & shining from within the deep green pond,
for to this ageing former head-banger now headmaster,
they had the best of both worlds:
a child who may never leave them
& a child who may know well enough to do so.

The Comely Bones

She didn’t yet have a name,
but she had a job—
to someday watch over the sister,
whom she would never outpace in age,
after their parents had returned to Heaven;
to watch over the sister
who some saw as a cute little dot
on a wide spectrum—
this blitheful child who wrote in smileys
& spoke in echoes
& laughed at movement,
not jokes,
& whose dreamlike gaze
noticed the page numbers
but not the words.
But as the mother looked at her rapidly expanding belly
that contained an entire universe of being,
she wondered if this unknown quantity
would outpace the one outside her body;
for every parent’s worry about their child
whose needs were different than most was
Who will love them when I am gone?

Sweet Little Nothings

You are never too old chocolate

When she had a little girl,
she remembered what it was to be one—
swinging in the park while leaning back
with her hair brushing the ground
& the world going about its business
upside down,
drinking chocolate milk with macaroni & cheese,
watching Looney Tunes while laying on the floor
with her legs up against the wall,
reading Dr. Seuss & Mother Goose,
& singing “Old MacDoodle had some vowels,
A-E-I-O-U
(& sometimes Y).”
She played with things the wrong way
& the silly way,
made animal pictures out of Spirographs
& refrigerator masterpieces out of Spin Art.
But when she saw the Calico Critters dollhouse
with the Hopscotch Bunny family—
so much cuter than the Barbie Dream House
that she’d wanted once upon a time
at Pensacola Christian School—
she brought that house home
& made up scenarios for her daughter—
just as she had made scenes
out of cardboard boxes
& paper dolls out of newspaper for herself.
For her,
motherhood wasn’t reliving her childhood
but creating a magical one for her daughter.

Sweet Little Nothings

Be someone you look up to chocolate

When her son was a baby,
she took time off to be with him,
missing the promotion.
When her son was 5
& going into kindergarten,
she went back to work
at a reduced rate,
for it was important
that she was there
every night
to read him a bedtime story.
When he was 12,
she won a 6-month writer’s residency
in New England,
but she couldn’t afford to bring him with her,
& she told herself that it was enough to know
that she had won,
for she could write anywhere with him
in the next room
or playing at her feet.
When he was 16,
she’d looked straight at him
& gave him the car keys—
not giving him to God as a priest
but to the world as a man.
When he was 18,
she looked up into those eyes
that were no longer questioning
but knowing,
& she saw herself reflected back in them.
And it was then that she saw herself
in him for the first time,
rather than the father who had gone before his;
she saw that she’d made something of the world
by making something of him.

A Light-Year of a Dark Mile

Shamrocke

When the world changed
from 6 degrees of separation
to 6 feet,
the longer this change
became a way of life,
the more that distance began to be
measured by time apart.
Children seemed to disappear
like caterpillars
into the cocoons of their homes,
their siblings their only friends;
but for the only child,
Mom & Dad
became their whole world,
other children,
a voice & a face on a screen.
FaceTiming with the grandparents,
whose hugs had become something dreamlike—
the spicy scent of Grandpa’s Clove gum
& wiry whiskers that felt like pine needles,
the intoxicating scent of Grandma’s Charly perfume
& powdery, rouged cheeks that left their mark—
began to fade into something indescribable.