I ventured into the garage this weekend to look for some things I will need for a job. It didn’t matter that I was looking for a particular set of things; as is often the case, I got sidetracked.
While unpacking boxes, I found an old writer’s notebook of my son’s. The pictures taped to the front were full of happy memories – our dog as a puppy, he and his sisters at the beach, in the mountains, on a day trip, or goofing off. There were doodles and cartoons. All the pictures were from a couple of years after my mother passed. Inside I found a speech, countless planning pages, informational paragraphs, and stories he’d written. None of the pages were used consecutively – I don’t know how the kid found anything! But right smack dab in the center was a love note.
Love Notes & Hate Mail
To be 100% honest, the love note was very close to another note in which he sarcastically thanked me for ruining every day of his life. He signed it as usual, “Love, Izzy” I cracked up laughing, snapped a picture of it, and sent it to my grown son.
“Holy cow, dude! What did I do to you?! Lol,” He had no idea but came out to look at the book. We sat there laughing and reminiscing. I interpreted the pictures and terrible spelling. He was amazed by my mom reading skills. It wasn’t really hate mail – it was still a love note. I was glad that he had felt comfortable enough to vent – it meant he was sure of my love.
When my daughter was small, she often got growing pains. I would come into her room and massage her legs. Growth can be painful. I was having a conversation the other day about teenagers, and one of the things my friend and I spoke about was how they sometimes lash out. I chuckled, “Do you want to know what thing I hated the most that my mom said? It’s totally ridiculous.” My friend’s nodding propelled me forward, “Good.” I explained how I would tell my mother something I planned to do, and she would sometimes respond with a very specifically toned “Good.”
I felt it was condescending as if I was doing something because she thought I should. Not being able to fully articulate the reason why it bothered me so much only frustrated me more. Looking back, I think it was a product of my own struggle to become an adult. I wanted autonomy, to be respected and trusted to make a good decision and “Good” felt like it was negating the fact that these thoughts and actions were my own choices.
My own teenage years with a mother whose love I could never lose no matter what I did, have informed my own parenting of teens. I know there will be some level of lashing out. I know there will be growing pains as they move from childhood into adulting. And I know that years from now they will experience the same thing I did. They will most likely reflect and probably see things a bit differently – perhaps even from my point of view. Not that I think they will grow to agree with me on everything, but rather, that their limited perspective had not accounted for my world experience. But, whether they have some “AHA” moment or not – one thing they are sure of is my love.
Love Notes In Hiding Places
Before cleaning out the garage I had been feeling a bit overwhelmed with the amount of work I needed to do and missing my mom – my favorite person to get things done with. I pulled out a book on the bookshelf – I don’t even remember why I did – but that’s not important. The important thing was what fell from between the pages. It was a note – a photocopied picture on a piece of copy paper folded in four like a greeting card. It was my mom’s favorite painting.
The painting shows the back of Jesus as he clings to the side of a sharp cliff with His left hand and with his right He is reaching down for one lost sheep. The note she wrote inside was for me. The words encouraged me. And the tears relieved my stress. She always hid love notes in my things. It’s a tradition I’ve passed on to my own kids. I always seemed to find those notes when I needed them – even now – 13 years later. But now I tuck them away again somewhere else so that I can find them again.
Taking Time To Reflect
So yesterday was a day of love notes – first my mom’s, then my son’s, later notes from my girls, and random letters and cards from other people as I sorted through boxes in the garage. I probably should have been more focused – But I’m glad I had the time to reflect on how much love notes matter.
I was telling my husband about what had happened later that evening and how it reminded me of leaving love notes for my aunt to find hidden all over her house when my uncle was dying. They were hidden between towels, behind picture frames, under Christmas ornaments, in drawers, and in any number of random places so that she wouldn’t find them all at once. Finding them a little at a time was a comfort I hope.
When My kids would go away to sleep-away camp for a week or a weekend, I would squirrel away post-it love notes in jeans pockets, folded into socks and underwear, between pillows and pillowcases, and tucked into sleeping bags. One time I thought I was being silly doing all that, it was probably annoying, and then, by chance, I found a stack of old love notes when I was looking for something in my daughter’s desk. I don’t think it’s silly anymore.