Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Open Heart Letter 2: To Judy


As part of my open-heart project, here is another letter to someone I love.  I open my heart to her and to you.


Dear Aunt Judy,

My relationship with you begins in the void before I was born, through my mother.  The chemistry you found as roommates makes you more sisters than sisters.  And as my aunt, you prove once again that family is a choice, a construct.  

Your gentleness has been an ever-present influence in my life.  I may have taken for granted your presence when I was a trying teenager (and I admit it--I was!), but I see as a grown up how much your temperance and goodness affected me.   As you know, my household as a kid was one of extremes, without too much structure or boundaries.  That was a good and a bad thing.  What you and Tom brought to my life was a sense that normal things like meals and bedtimes are comforting.  That simple rituals of eating together and cleaning up the dishes together are pleasurable.   In my home now, we eat every breakfast and dinner together, we cook together, we clean together.  There is order and balance here, and I recognize the patterns from your home in mine.

Despite all the things we've shared together, there are countless things I haven't told you yet. Of course, I could never list them all, but here are a few:

Do you know what it meant to me that you, a young mother, busy with work and little kids, would make the long drive out for each and every show I was in?  I felt so very loved to know that when I stepped onto the stage, you would be in the audience, warm as the spotlight, clapping for the performance, regardless of how good or bad it was.   So many plays, so many events.  And you shared them all with me.  I don't know that I ever told you how much I appreciated it then, but I did. It was a real gift for me to know you and Tom were out there when the curtain went up.


Do you know that I think of you every time I make a bed?  That's funny, huh?  I remember making up a bed with you somewhere (maybe you were helping Mom out?), and you showed me how the top sheet faces right side down, so when you fold the cuff, it's neat and tidy, and the edging faces the right way.   I cannot lay a flat sheet on a bed without remembering that.

I know we don't chat on the phone all the time, but I do think of you almost every day.  So many things make me think of you--here are just a few things that bring you into my mind immediately: seeing fat little squirrels, like the ones you feed in your yard; the feel of a warm sunporch; any Celtic music, of any persuasion; any Schnauzer (how I miss Fritz and Ernie--what good dogs!); seven-layer salad with cheese and olives; any kind of object with an owl on it--I know you don't collect them anymore, but they remain stuck to you in my mind.


If I close my eyes, I'm right there at your table, eating a meal off the cool, thick Pfaltzcraft dinnerware and laughing at Tom's wry comments.   I'm back in the kitchen on Camp St, or I can feel the soft carpet of the staircase (with its landing that I loved!). And there, clear as day, is the backyard and its burgeoning garden, the sunporch, the bookcases and cabinets of photos and treasures. And what treasures abounded there.

The "new" house is as warm as the old. That weekend Ada and I spent with you was so fun--we are eager to do that again. Ada still talks about what happened with the whipped cream on the blueberry cake. I had chastised her when she went to wipe a dollop of whipped cream off the cake with her finger. And Tom joined in, saying, "No Ada! Don't do that! Do THIS!" and he proceeded to take a handful of it himself. Oh, how we laughed. Her eyes were glowing with love, seeing that a grownup could play like that.

This from Tom, who taught me that smart is funny and disagreement can be safe.  That love can share the same space with two very different political views.   Tom, you opened my mind to listening to differing opinions, to respecting dissent.   Without that, I would have missed out on so many wonderful relationships with people who share a good heart, though not my politics.

I have so many memories of birthdays and Christmases with you.   The longer visits, the weekends at your lovely homes linger in my mind.   All the big events in our lives, the weddings, the giant birthday celebrations (and birthday/anniversary celebrations), assembling wedding invitations and preparing showers and graduation parties and holidays. Washing dishes together after all of these, and lazy breakfasts after late nights, where Sara and Debbie and I had listened to you girls "cackling like hens" until the wee hours.

These are simple memories of family events, and everyone has them. I am glad that my memories of family events are of you.


As I said, while we are born into one family, I think we can also choose the people who make up our real family, our family of the heart.   You helped teach me that. And that ultimately freed my perceptions enough that I was open to the idea of adopting a child. In no small part, your commitment to me led me to understand how fully I could be a parent to a child who was not physically born to me. I can never thank you enough for that.


We choose our real family. I know that if I were given the choice, I would choose you, again and again.  Thank you so much for being all you are to me.  I love you.

love,
Kirie   


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12 comments:

Gram said...

Once long ago someone told me that a compliment is only that until to share it with someone. Then, it begins to blossom into love. We all need more love. Enjoyed!

angela said...

Hi Kirie,

What a beautiful letter to Judy! It brought tears to my eyes. I was so blessed that we were assigned to the same house so many years ago. She is such a wonderful and special friend - I love her too. She is more a sister than a friend.
Love, Mom

Lisa said...

That is so wonderful to read. Isn't it interesting how we can relate something so simple, like making a bed, to a person or a particular memory?

Julianne said...

What a beautiful tribute to your aunt. You are indeed very blessed.

Judy said...

JudyRkfd
Just read your open letter and it made me teary eyes! I feel very humble and wonder how I could make a difference in the life of such a talented young Mom. Thanks so much for the love letter. It made my day, week, month...
I've always felt your Mom has done so much for my girls I could never do as much for you. Sometimes the smallest of things can be larger than we know.
I do miss you and wish we could be together to share more of our lives but the computer is a help and love to read about the family.
Love to all of you
Aunt Judy

Judy said...

JudyRkfd
Just read your open letter and it made me teary eyes! I feel very humble and wonder how I could make a difference in the life of such a talented young Mom. Thanks so much for the love letter. It made my day, week, month...
I've always felt your Mom has done so much for my girls I could never do as much for you. Sometimes the smallest of things can be larger than we know.
I do miss you and wish we could be together to share more of our lives but the computer is a help and love to read about the family.
Love to all of you
Aunt Judy

3continentfamily said...

Beautiful. thank you for sharing this...

Lydia said...

Well, that was absolutely touching and beautiful!

sweetdebs said...

Wow, love the letter. I feel the same about your family and blessed to have an aunt, uncle and cousins that are more family then most other families have. Lovely memories and ones I was just sharing last night with Keith and his mom while we shared a meal and washed dishes!

The Seeker said...

Too beautiful and personal to say something.
Thanks for sharing this great and lovely tribute.

By the way I was so surprised that the picture was you that I forgot to tell that you ARE very beautiful, my dear.

Thank you for your nice words, always being kind to me, sweetie.

Have a great weekend

xoxo

The Seeker said...

I've a little something in my blog for you.

xoxo

Hilary said...

Thank you, Kirie, for sharing your beautiful letters. I have always believed that water can be just as thick as blood. Nothing more I can say; wonderful letter.

 
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