It’s a new decade
and my one little word surprised me quick:
When I was a girl, there was one warm little word that could smooth back the hair
from my upset and calm the afraid-and-alone of me,
sometimes offered by my mother and also my grandma Creasy
when I was particularly deserving.
“You dear little thing”
As I grew too big and clunky, the word became reserved for babies
and petite girls who minded their manners and kept their thick shiny hair tucked
neatly back off their faces.
For puppies and lambs and darling things.
It meant worthy of notice, of affection, of protection, of love.
The remarkable thing about being dear was that
it seemed to come without a single bit of effort on the part of the beloved.
It was as if the essence of the dear one squeezed sunshine and smile and safety
like orange juice from another soul.
It was delicious to be dear,
a soul-soothing energy that made it okay to be seen.
It was potent pain to lose your dearness.
To become un-see-able or worse, unacceptable, by love,
As I’ve journeyed through the years I’ve learned and un-learned to hustle for my dearness
the way you do when you’re still figuring it out,
and I hurt on hearts, mine and others, the way you do
when you’re not sure that it’s settled already – your unique value –
in the grand design.
This past year was gift in that it stirred the deep of this primal pain
as I lost the body of work I’d created over the past decade to a hard drive crash
while my mother slowly died
and layers of my shell peeled away,
begging the scary questions we toss like covers in the night.
Several months before she passed, I began to make old photos into cards and write my love
and memories in bundles for Mom to draw from when she needed a lift.
In this way she let me say how dear,
let me lay my heart on the foot of her bed
and feel a home once more in that place.
As I listened and longed for some words in return
I felt it keen the hunger to feel dear again to her,
the little girl of me reaching for her smile.
She was unable to give it,
and so one of the gifts in her passing is a sharp sense of purpose
standing up strong inside where it once felt like a dream being dreamed
a torch to say the things – to say how dear – into our motherless places.
Those holes left behind by the imperfect lives of our mothers and by our own
imperfect capacity to receive what she had to give.
We wound our kids without meaning – even in wanting only ever to love.
This year I’ll tend the memorial garden in my heart, in part,
by making space to say the things out louder,
to cluck soft and hum tender over our dearness.
To honor my mother and the mother in us all.
Because we’re here for just a few short seasons, like a wisp,
and I don’t want to leave any of my love ungiven.
So here it is, dear – my one little word.
And here’s to our dearness.
“You have to find a mother inside yourself. We all do.
Even if we have a mother, we still have to find this part of ourselves inside.”
– Sue Monk Kidd