Dear College Admissions Officer,
Choose my daughter, yes. But also . . .choose me.
I see that girl on your campus, illuminated by the dappled colors of the stained glass window, her eyes full of wonder at the stacks of books, the green reading lamps, the long gleaming desks. She is there with us on our tour, the girl just like me, who had never seen such architecture, such perfectly placed trees, such peace.
Choose the girl you would have rejected long ago, the bright-but-lost one, the one drowning in a huge urban school with bathrooms so dangerous she does not dare enter them.
Choose the girl who got As on all her papers but who skipped her classes, who scored in the 99th percentile in English and the 20th, sigh, in Science.
Choose the diamond in the rough, choose the needle in the haystack. My fingers are crossed for that girl lingering at the back, with the fraying backpack and the not-right shoes and the crooked bangs and the glasses that are not ironic.
Choose the girl whose numbers don’t add up but whose essay will blow you away.
My younger self
P.S. Also, give me a full scholarship.
Dear Person Who Left A Note On My Car,
When I left the hospital after 3 hours, I was surprised to see the yellow paper on my windshield. Someone must have fender-bendered me, I thought, and they were kind enough to leave a note. (I am generally in favor of correspondence.)
But, um, no.
Apparently my legally parked, perfectly straight, exactly-within-the-lines-with-room-to-spare- on-all-sides car had somehow inconvenienced the full opening of your passenger door. But that was not how you worded it.
I had arrived at my vehicle with tears in my eyes, upset by my doctor, my lab results, the failure of my body. This was not the best moment to be told that I “completely ruined the day of a cancer patient.” Really, who pulls the cancer card in a patient parking lot? Aren’t the chances extraordinarily high that everyone in every car is sick, hurting, and crying? I remembered the last time I was there, having brought my own child for cancer treatment. Suddenly, I wished I could throw my own tears back at you. You are not special, I wanted to say. And you are a crummy driver! Can you not see that in your stress and pain you must have parked your car too close to the yellow line, and not expected anyone to fill the nearby space?
But as I read through the furious note to the crescendo of the last line, my anger left me. It was all so unexpected, and so wrong, that I burst out laughing. Doubled over in fact. Instead of guilt or anger, I felt incredibly cheered. I wiped away my tears, believing I had found the sentiment for the perfect holiday card.
“Merry Christmas You Selfish Inconsiderate Asshole!”
Mom in SUV
P.S. You misspelled “inconsiderate.” Please be more careful in the future. You never know who might be receiving your little missives.
I feel like I know you. You feel like you know my car.
It’s been going on for years, you walking with — your husband? your brother? your boyfriend?– and me driving with my kids. You are not old, but you walk with a bend, a limp, that is steadied by your companion. Your right arm is always looped through his left. He looks younger than you, because he is sturdier.
We each wave as the other passes; sometimes you smile. I probably don’t. It’s early, and I’m late.
Once I saw you in a coffee shop and pressed my hand into yours: “I see you walking every day! I’m the woman in the blue car!” I found out your first name and the name of your street. I was surprised by how far away the street was. I have forgotten your name.
For a week now, I’ve seen you walking alone. Your partner, your cohort, your human walking stick, is not there.
And I worry. I worry that though I thought you were the one who was sick, or crippled by polio, or recovering from something I could see and yet not see, that I was wrong. That it was him, and you were his rock, not the other way around.
You walk by, still limping. I wave. And I don’t roll down the window and ask if everything is all right. I can’t bring myself to.
But I force a smile, as if to say, I hope it is. I hope.
Woman In the Blue Car
I am tired, very tired, of everyone on earth telling me how poorly written your books are.
Let me offer a few pointers.
1) Focus on physical details. How about: “Blood speckled her pillows, giving them a kind of delicate, polka-dot-from-hell pattern.”
2) End each chapter with a hook. Example: “She thought the worst was over. And then she saw the tail of the bullwhip peeking between his legs.”
3) Rewrite your ending. Everyone hates it. Consider crafting one that actually brings women pleasure and satisfaction. Oh, wait, righhhhht . . . .
The Literary Author
P.S. Please stop laughing on your way to the bank. It’s very untoward, and we can all hear you.
You are no rookie.
I knew this not from the tone of your voice (deep) or the way you told me that you had my daughter in your custody (calmly).
No. I knew this by the way you kept saying “nothing is wrong” and “your daughter is not in any trouble” in the shocked pauses between my one word answers.
Thank you for keeping her safe, and for making her first experience with the law a positive one.
And I am sincerely sorry about that little run-in I had with your brethren in 1987. Really, I am.
Parent Fearing Payback
What is your story? Do you know that others are creating it as you dance, leap, twirl in your oversized impenetrable lenses?
Plastic surgery, they whisper. Others concur. Of a certain age. Getting crinkly. They are absolute in their assessment: what else would lead anyone to do what you are doing?
Still, I look at your slight build, the bruise on your shoulder, and come up with another story. I worry for you, and what is behind your glasses. I wonder why anyone who has the courage to dance as you do doesn’t also have the courage to stand up to him. To leave him. To spin away from his dark embrace.
I tell another friend about this moment, the small drama, the tittering. She says: Oh, they were probably just prescription sunglasses and she forgot her regular ones. Like you do sometimes at parties that start at sunset. Like you do at the grocery store.
Ahhhh, I think, somewhat ashamed, rewriting my own story. This explains the looks of pity I always get at Whole Foods.
Woman Who Jumps To Dark Conclusions
I don’t sit at the pool this week. This week, I swim. I don’t drive there, I bike, relishing even the uphills. When no one is looking, I hazard a dive and later, a wobbly flip turn, then delight in the rocketing rush it provides. I sign up for more dance classes than usual, and twist my hair into a smoother, tighter bun. In yoga class I consider the line of my gestures, minute adjustments, the swoop of my arm, the flowering of my fingers. I mimic you all in the smallest ways.
Of course, by the second week, I will have logged more hours in front of the television than I have in a year, and eaten more potato chips than I can count.
But those first few days? Those are body bliss.
Don’t you remember what it was like to be young?
To have a small closet, a tiny allowance, limited resources, but unlimited beauty?
Don’t you remember what it was like to have nothing special to wear but yourself, your long legs, your shiny hair, your teeth that will never be this white and unspoiled again?
No. No you don’t. If you did, you wouldn’t have tapped my daughter on the shoulder and told her that she couldn’t stay at the party. Couldn’t stay unless she went home and put on a pair of longer shorts, or a dress, or a pink and green plaid golf skirt.
In the end, you have accomplished nothing. Because when she comes back in the lake blue dress, gleaming in the late afternoon light, you realize it has nothing to do with what she wears.
The light will always find her. She shines no matter what container you put her in.
Her Mother, Who Told Her She Looked Great
Celebration is the joyous refusal to think about what’s next. There is color and passion in this moment, in this festive sliver between childhood and adulthood.
Remember how this feels, to celebrate a job well done. And remember to do it often, with small successes, and obstacles overcome. That feeling of accomplishment, followed by joy, is one of the only graces in the world.
May you know it always, not just today.
You must be very young. Have you led a gifted life, with a be-ribboned car on your 16th birthday, and diamond studs when you graduated from college? Is that what you think it’s about? Is that why you are doing what you’re doing?
You do not understand what it is like to be a mother. Or to lose a mother.
If you did, you would write more carefully. You would find a way, even though you are peddling jewelry or gift cards or meals, to tell people to appreciate what they have now. And celebrate what they once did.
Please, please understand that just because you are lucky, not everyone is.
A mother and a daughter