You know the feeling you have after reading a particularly inspiring book, a book that recounts the story of someone’s life that is as different from yours as could be, and yet you feel connected to the character in an indescribable way that makes no sense at all?
Reading about others’ lives has a way of validating your own life, no matter how different it may be or how insignificant it may look to an outsider. Reading about another one’s victories makes you joyful about your own, and suffering alongside another one’s loss makes yours easier to bear. It’s romantic, the way it works. Reading, whether it’s fiction or not, has a way of making you more passionate about the little things in life. That’s why I read. I’m not as passionate and eccentric about life as Anne of Green Gables, but then again, who is? We all have our own way of being passionate, and our own way of expressing passion and romance.
Last week I discovered another “new” book by an author I didn’t recognize in a section of the library I dont often go to. In the past I have burned myself in reading strange books. Like the one I tried to read once but by the time I was thirty pages in I still had no idea what the book was about. And so I was wary about taking this book home. On the way out of the library I picked up a few Beverly Lewis ones just to make sure I’d have something to read.
This book is titled “Letter to My Daughter”, written in first person from the mom’s point of view. I’ve never been a mother, but I have been a daughter. A fifteen year old daughter. And that wasn’t that long ago.
The story resonated with me. I was captivated by the time I read the first paragraph.
This woman and her daughter had a fight on the eve of the daughter’s fifteenth birthday. So the daughter stole her mother’s car and drove away, leaving her mother and father to worry and wait at home. While waiting, the mother sits down and begins to pen a letter to her daughter in hopes of being able to reconnect with her again, like they used to. There’s something about the teen age that often drives a wedge between parent and child, and I have no idea why. I hope I have that figured out by the time I have a teenaged kid, but I think that’s hopeless. I think it’s unresearchable and inexplainable why parents all of a sudden “have no idea how their teenagers feel”. I mean yes, some might link this rebellion to changing hormones and stuff but I don’t know.
This mother had tried, like all the other mothers of teenage children ever, to explain to her daughter that she knew what she was going through. She understood better than she thought. The daughter obviously didn’t believe her. This letter was composed to try to bring that point across, and to tell the daughter the “truth about life”, and all the other details of this mother’s life that she had always wanted to share with her daughter but never come around to it, including the explanation and meaning behind the tattoo on her hip, I shall but love thee better after death.
If I was that daughter, I would never again doubt my mother if she was trying to teach me something. A letter where your own mother had recounted painful, shameful, broken, and victorious details about her own teenage life would be the most prized possession on earth.
A letter like that has cost the mother everything to write. No child, no matter how rebellious and how far gone would be able to see past that.
The astonishing thing about it all was the book wasn’t written by a mother. It was written by a man, George Bishop. But the gruesome details of the mother’s life made the story come alive like a startling honesty about loss and survival.
It almost inspired me to write my own account of my teenage years. Almost.