I think this is going to be the sort of letter that every parent dreams about receiving. Did you two talk about getting a letter like this after another day of rowdy kids who didn’t get their schoolwork done and had bad attitudes and didn’t listen and didn’t obey? I seem to recall a few “someday” conversations. You know: “Someday you’ll realize/understand/experience/thank us/etc.”
Well, consider this my someday letter (sort of). Because while, over the past few years, I’ve come to the gradual-and-instantly-terrifying realization of how much I’m like you both, school has been an opportunity to realize a few of the little things. And here, the little things mean a lot, because in the big overwhelming-ness of college life, these small understandings have felt a lot like gifts from home.
Yesterday I was thanked for cleaning up the kitchen after cooking. For simply wiping down the stove and counters and behind the faucet. Please don’t laugh at me, because I know very well all the times that I haven’t done that and I know I won’t always in the future. But I know how, and that’s thanks to you, Mom. I know what a clean kitchen is supposed to look like and how important it is, regardless of how consistent I am in doing that. You said that good cooks were good at cleaning up, that the work wasn’t done until the kitchen was clean, and I never knew how much that meant to you.
Last week I was thanked for being honest. I don’t think of the students here as being dishonest, but apparently some types of honesty are more rare than the rest. I wish I could claim that I was always honest, but I know that whatever level I am, it’s because I learned to love it in all those hours with you, Dad. I got to learn that to be best friends with someone requires honesty in all things: in love, in argumentation, in confrontation, in apologies, and even in fun.
Two weeks ago we sang “Be Still My Soul” in chorale. I’m at a Bible school where hymns are rampant and the words are sometimes taken for granted, but, Mom, I still remember those evenings singing “Trust and Obey” and “Be Still My Soul” and while I may not remember all the words, you gave each of us kids a love for music and the meaning in it. Maybe it’s the sweetness of the memory, maybe it’s the seasons in which I’ve encountered those hymns, but mostly I think it’s because I never saw you get tired of them, so I never have, either.
Three weeks ago I got in a conversation with a student about politics, and I realized the breadth of untaught education I got from you, Dad. You may not always have been right (shocking, I know), but you did make it seem absolutely important to be and stay informed on this world and its decisions. Here at school, the opportunities to do that are harder to find, but thanks to you I’m keeping up. Because it is so ingrained in me to know and understand and acknowledge the economic, political, societal, and spiritual impacts of the decisions we have abandoned to a secular world.
Four weeks ago I started reading aloud with a student here. A girl like me, with a love of stories and hearing them. So I get to read aloud to her, going through a classic children’s story. Did you know, Mom, the way I can hear your voice in crowd because of the way you say you “s’s,” and that I love that? I’m finding my story voice, the voice and pitch and tone of a narrator, and I hope it sounds like you. Because in my head, I hear you in those hours after lunch when you taught us to love both story and sound.
Five weeks ago I met someone else who loved math. It’s kind of a rare thing here, and I’m nervous to claim that love because I’m not fantastic at it. But, Dad, you never said I had to be good at it, but you did want me to understand it. You always described math as this unexplored, extraordinary thing that was waiting for me to delight in. You and Mom both managed to do that with all of my school: yes, I did it because I had to, but you thought there should be joy in it. That if I could just get to the other side–beyond the bad attitude and nagging frustrations–then I could discover how meaningful every piece of learning is. So now I get to experience that at school; the absolutely joy of learning.
There are many more of the little things, but here are a few. Please understand that I will not always be thankful like I am today. I will probably forget some of these next week when I have a Spanish exam and two hundred pages to read and a week’s worth of dishes and dirty laundry piled around my room. I will be crabby and hate the learning and sing a joyless version of even the most beautiful of our chorale songs. But someday I’ll write Version 2.0 of this when I remember it all over again.