A Mother’s Love Letter

Recently, I was invited to an “All 80’s Party.” For fun, admittance would require a high school photo.

Our family moved to Pleasantville, NY 19 years ago, at which time I tucked away one small box in the corner of the top shelf in a spare closet. It contained random keepsakes that had survived the sale of my childhood home and all the moves I had made over the years. My daughter happened to be home from college for a short break when I pulled the box down in search of that perfect high school photo—so we opened it together. To my surprise and my daughter’s amusement, we discovered a jumble of Polaroid photos, yearbooks, little kid artwork, and grade school reports (“The Structure of the Cell” marked with a big C+… why did I save that one?) and more. But when I discovered a bright yellow envelope clad with a rainbow design tucked deep into the pocket of an old binder, my heart began to stir. I noticed the letter had an insignificant date written at the top, Nov. 18, 1982, making me twelve years old when I received it from my mother.

Dear Sweetheart, the song “You Light up My Life” always makes me think of you. You are so full of life and love! I pray that God will always help you channel it in the right direction. I worry that you will get caught up in worldly things. I am impressed when I see you not getting influenced by other kids your age. You are a leader, not a follower—this is very good. It takes a lot of strength to be yourself and not follow the crowd. It shows you are your own person and do what you think is right. You have your own ideas! Always remember to use your Catholic principles when forming these ideas, and you will be a happy person. Dad and I are very proud of you and have high expectations of you. I know sometimes it seems like we expect too much out of you. Please forgive us; it’s just that you are so capable! You will always be our baby, and everyone knows the baby is special! What would our family be without you? You are so fun to be with, a good sport, artistic, and a genuinely caring person. We love you! You are also turning into a beautiful young lady. Love, Mom

I must have loved getting this letter, I thought to myself. I must have felt like I was her beloved daughter! Reading it as an adult, I understood that my mom was helping me form my identity. Amazingly, just as Mary wants to lead us to her Son so He can love us, my mother was the voice of God for me when I was a little girl, telling me I was good, loved, and pure—and I believed her! I was innocent, happy, and free.

Unsurprisingly, only a few years passed before I wanted to become my “own person.” Indeed, we all pull away from our parents—we must. But looking back now, I recognized that, little by little, in the process of becoming my “own person,” I got pretty lost. Regretfully, I made poor choices just to be liked, “loved,” accepted, modern, liberal, fun, etc. In the process, Mom’s voice became muted.

I see now how that affected me. I stopped believing that those “Catholic principles” were valuable, and it seemed okay to skip church and compromise the moral foundation I had been taught. And later in life, be lazy about how I raised my kids when it was my turn to teach them to cherish their faith.

But it’s okay! Because here I am, writing this article! God has a perfect plan for each of us. For me, coming back to Christ wasn’t an overnight deal—and it’s undoubtedly ongoing. But the journey began by accepting His “little invitations.” Slowly, through prayer, Bible study, and finding friends who deeply cared about me (and my soul), I started to hear and believe that tender message again—that I was full of life and love, a leader, not a follower. I was capable. I was His baby.

Now back to that 80’s party. In addition to bringing the high school photo, we were encouraged to come dressed in the theme. Think shoulder pads, banana clips, jam pants, and penny loafers. I had an idea! Thanks to some help from a friend back in Ohio, I secured my authentic, all-girl Catholic High School uniform—complete with plaid pleats and pure polyester.

I was nearly ready to go. I pulled up my navy blue knee socks, tied my docksiders, and took one last look in the mirror. At that moment, just like my mom, I saw the real me.

Thanks, Mom. I love you too!

“Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.’”

Proverbs 31:28–29

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