Recently, my mother came to stay for a few days. She shared a few comments that made me realize she has absolutely no memory of what life was like for her when she was a young mum of three children. I’ve read letters people write to their 16-year-old selves; advice they wish they’d known back then. But I want a letter to my 60-year-old self, in case I end up remembering a complete fictional account of my life right now.
Dear 60-year-old me,
When your children were younger, there were times they drove you nuts. Especially your daughter. They almost never behaved at the dinner table. And they argued with you about everything. Especially your daughter. I implore you to remember this now, especially if you are blessed with granddaughters.
When you were 37, your cupboards were a mess. Those baby locks? They weren’t for keeping the baby out — they were for keeping the mess in!
Your spice cupboard was never clean. Ever.
In the last year, I’ve started using a daily face cream with SPF 15. You’re welcome.
Dear 60-year-old me: when you were a young mum, you spent most of your time feeling like you should always be doing something else. When you were playing with the baby, you felt like you should be writing. When you were writing, you felt like you should be spending time with your children. Or volunteering to do more in their classrooms. Sometimes you felt like you should be cleaning your house, but only sometimes. However, never your spice cupboard.
Dear 60-year-old me: And while we’re on the topic of your house, you were almost always ashamed of the mess. Your husband had an impressive ability to expand your front hall closet to every available dining room chair. You regularly tripped over shoes and found measuring spoons hidden in the living room couch. You worried that your children would never learn the value of a tidy room. You worried that you would never learn the value of a tidy room. But you did not let the state of your house stop you from entertaining and opening your home to others.
Dear 60-year-old me: you loved when your mother came to visit and it was always hard to say good-bye. You worried about what would happen when she got older and couldn’t travel. You worried about not being there when she needed you. You felt guilt. Great massive gobs of guilt for building a life in a city far away from your parents, for raising your children away from your entire extended family, for not Skyping enough, visiting enough, sending enough pictures. And then your mother would say something about your spice cupboard, and you felt more guilt about that.
Dear 60-year-old me: You stressed every minute about living the life you wanted. You spent too much money. You didn’t make enough. You didn’t know how you were going to afford the next year of Jewish education for your kids. Or the next month. You often wondered if it was all worth it. You dreamed of retiring to Digby, Nova Scotia.
Dear 60-year-old me: At 37, most nights you lay in bed next to your husband, grateful to be sleeping with your best friend. Most nights you were fairly confident that your children went to sleep happy, and that you’d remembered to tell them that you loved them. Most nights you felt fairly confident that everyone under your roof felt loved. Most nights, even when you knew you’d left dirty dishes in the sink, wet clothes in the washing machine, open packages of pasta in the cupboards — most nights you knew it was the love that counted.