the last tiny letter

Dear Ethan, 

It’s February 28, 2022.

I decided this morning on my way to work that this would be the last tiny letter. The first was 485 days ago. I’ve been dragging my feet on writing this one, but I’m dedicated at finishing what I start these days. I only ended up writing 79 letters, which is a sloppy number. The prose isn’t polished nor is it perfect. It feels like the right time. After a long period of hibernation and reflection, I’d like to continue living my life rather than remembering it. 

Today was your first day of school EVER without wearing a mask. I took you to get a haircut yesterday to celebrate—and the hairdresser said, “You ready to be handsome?” 

“I already AM handsome,” you replied calmly. ***
 I’m not sure why, exactly (maybe coincides with insomnia/guilt/ late nights watching the news), but I recently had this distinct memory of cornering my mom in my childhood kitchen, and asking, “but WHY did you have so many of us?” 

My dad would never reply to this question, which was wise. But my mom would stumble her way through.

“Because we are MARRIED.”

“Because WE WANTED TO.” 

I guess I was pro-life to the point that I absolutely believed my life was my own even before I was conceived. I had some serious resentment and control issues about leaving the trajectory of my entire existence up to chance. I had many mid-life crises along the way—8, 11, 15, 22. At this point, my mindset has settled comfortably into octogenarian territory.

Sometimes when I asked, I was angry, specifically at my mother, by all that we were lacking. I was constantly worried about how we would put food on the table and when that would happen. Beneath the obnoxious persistence of my question, what I didn’t have the vocabulary or philosophy to articulate, was—“why am I here? Why did you bring me into this shithole world to suffer?” 

I have a lot of hate-rage about this world we’ve inherited—by hamster-level attention spans, long hours spent massaging images found within little black boxes. I get frustrated by capitalism. And poverty and war and how EASY it is to disregard human suffering that isn’t yours. I used to wish I was an orphan. I used to pray I had a future. 

Waking up on Friday, I was 34 years old. And for once, I didn’t blame my mother. For a while now, I have been complicit in this world you will inherit. Your generation will be fucked up by your parents being obsessed with their phones/the world of online dating/constantly curated photo opportunities taken at specific angles/things I can’t even imagine. I listened to Tom Hanks on Desert Island Discs this morning, and he said (in my own words), “Every play that is successful traverses the terrain of terrible loneliness.”  

Then he got all choked up—and so did I. I had the vocabulary, finally, to write this letter. 

If you were to repeat history and karmatically ask me why I chose to have a child, I would have to tell you because for an illuminating time in my life, I felt infallible hope, the type you experience in moments of insanity or intense clarity. My greatest asset as a person, I think, is contemplativeness. Borderline obsessive, perhaps. Yours is joy. You don’t think before you leap, but you’ll do it with a broad smile on your handsome face. 

This weekend, our incredible sitter Hannah came to watch you, and she took you to a big hill. I was reminded of doing the same early pandemic—my friend Maddie wanted to take both of us sledding for the first time. I settled you in my lap, we held on tight, and off we went, into pandemic world and beyond. 

On Saturday, Hannah strapped you on the back of an eleven year old boy whom you had met five minutes prior, who hunkered down as you wrapped your arms against his neck. And together, you flew. He walked you up the big hill again and again with your little hand in his larger one. That’s when I knew that you would be okay, because despite my pessimistic tendencies, I believe that all people have good in them, and the capacity for tenderness and love.

I love you so much. I hope you’ve enjoyed timetraveling with me. My mom used to say—ni todo el dinero ni todo el amor. That roughly translates to—neither all the money nor all love [is appropriate when raising a child]. 

In a wildly inappropriate, yet characteristic move, I failed. I parent filled to the brim with unshakable love, and it’s my gift, my honor, and the bravest journey of my life to be your mother.  


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