Of decades and dearness….

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


  1. JULIA on January 8, 2020 at 10:12 am

    Dear Jennifer, your little word is such a powerful one. I remember as well when I was a young girl, being called dear by an aunt. How it made me feel affectionally special. It gave me a feeling of being valued. Such a little word with so much potential.

    For some reason, I’ve begun to use that little word more often lately. I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older but you reminded me of its importance for the young, the old and for the in-between. It’s a sweet word.

    Hugs, Julia

    I wish you a Happy New Year filled with happiness, hope and joy.

    • jennifer on January 8, 2020 at 4:45 pm

      Yes, sweet word:) Big joy to you, dear Julia,

  2. Elephants Child on January 8, 2020 at 2:50 pm

    Huge thanks. World encompassing thanks.
    And heartfelt hugs and oceans of caring.

    • jennifer on January 8, 2020 at 4:44 pm

      Thanks dear Sue. Big love and grace to you and your part of the world.
      We’re all with you,

  3. jeanie on January 9, 2020 at 7:58 am

    Here’s to the dearness in us all. As always, beautifully written and so open and honest. “Dear” is a wonderful word, rarely used these days, is it? Rick’s mom will say it sometimes to me and I hadn’t thought about it particularly till I read this but yes, it feels special. It’s a wonderful word for this part of your journey. And oh, the part about time being short and giving away all your love — that resonates so very much!

    • jennifer on January 9, 2020 at 6:13 pm

      So old fashioned, right? I haven’t used it much at all until suddenly
      it seems born fresh someplace inside. Go figure. Just rolling with it:)
      Thanks for your encouragement always,

  4. Robin on January 9, 2020 at 8:00 am

    This spoke to me on so many levels…thank you dear one. ❤️

    • jennifer on January 9, 2020 at 6:12 pm

      I know you’re in a hard place right now with your own mom, Robin.
      Love and hugs,

  5. Barbara Shallue on January 9, 2020 at 3:09 pm

    I love that quote by Sue Monk Kidd. It’s so true! We have to fill in the empty spaces in our needs that others can’t, or won’t, give us. I hate to hear about your work that you lost. I’ve known that pain – a book I had been working on diligently (but only for a year – not 10!) disappeared when my computer crashed years ago. I just stopped writing for awhile. It was too painful. I hope you know you, your thoughts, and your writing are very dear to all of us. Peace and love to you in 2020!

    • jennifer on January 9, 2020 at 6:12 pm

      Me too, Barbara. Thanks for your kindness – change always shakes and takes us somewhere new
      and I’m trusting for better ground. Glad you’re getting back to your life after the heart scare;
      holding you close to mine:)

  6. Susan on January 10, 2020 at 8:48 pm

    I was instantly reminded of how this little word can make you feel so special, especially when you’re not sure that you are. We should remember to do this for each other more since, for so many of us, the Moms and Grandmothers and Aunts cannot.
    Holding you deep and gently and thanking you, as always, dear friend.

    • jennifer on January 16, 2020 at 12:11 pm

      Isn’t it a sweet old-fashioned word. Yes, we need to be the ones now
      who give this affirmation to each other and our own selves.
      Thanks for weighing in,

  7. Lucille Christie on January 11, 2020 at 9:05 am

    Your words are so touching as your sharing
    Your inner and outer life with us.
    Sadly those words didn’t come from my mother at all as my father took her place
    With many words of affirmation.
    My parents were divorced when I was
    Seven so I saw my father every weekend.
    Looking back I don’t think my mother
    Approved. She remarried and my step
    Brother became the center of her life.
    And that is the way it was. When she became a Christian late in life I was
    Noticed, but there was no depth to the
    Relationship. I only thought about it
    Later in life and realized my heart had accepted it. I doubled up with my own children and one thing amidst at times
    The chaos they knew I loved them ,
    I’m now in winter of my life and regrets
    Are lost in memories. We don’t get
    A do over so one day at a time for me
    and as my mother passed last year
    I miss the idea of her.

    • jennifer on January 16, 2020 at 12:10 pm

      I so understand, Lucille; the whole missing the idea of someone. Yes.
      I love the thought of having an eternity to really know someone and do
      the togethering in a healthy, transformed way.
      Big love to your big heart,

  8. Naomi Wittlin on January 13, 2020 at 11:27 am

    Jennifer, this is such a beautiful tribute to you, your mother, and all of your memories. I loved it and love you!

    • jennifer on January 16, 2020 at 12:08 pm

      Thanks so much for your visit, Naomi:) Your kindness encourages my heart:)
      Big hope that this new decade is your finest by far!

  9. Sandy on January 16, 2020 at 10:20 am

    Oh the power of one small word. ❤️❤️❤️

    • jennifer on January 16, 2020 at 12:09 pm

      Yes and thank you:)
      – Jennifer

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