When I was a teenager my parents and I disagreed on nearly everything probably for just the point of being right. Other than my stubbornness though I was an all around good kid who didn't get into too much trouble (other than being a smart-aleck) and for those who know me well- clearly I have lost that character trait long ago.......
During one of the weeks where my mom and I could not see eye-to-eye I came across a small article in one of her Woman's Day magazines. A woman named Melissa from Seattle had sent in a letter suggesting a mother daughter ritual of exchanging a small book with positive words and little letters to each other every now and then when communications were rough or when one of us needed some encouragement.
I was so inspired by this idea I looked around desperately for a little memo book to share between my my mom and I to tell her how much I loved her. The best thing I could find at the time was one of those old autograph books with all blank pages... so I cut out the article, pasted it on the first page and started my notes to her.
My mom and I also never spoke about the book - no one else in my family knew about it at all. It was a beautiful secret that we shared back and forth some times a couple times a week and sometimes months went by until one of us thought of it and reached for it. We almost always placed it underneath the other's pillow and I cannot begin to describe to you the joy you feel when crawling into bed after a long day only to feel the texture of that little softcover book waiting to be read- no matter how tired you were you immediately turned the light on and had to read those special new words. A few times the book made its way into luggage when my mom was going on a trip or into my ready-to-go-all-folded-neatly (Thanks Mom!) laundry basket when I was heading back to college after a weekend at home.
For seven sweet years my mom and I shared this special book. From the time I was eighteen and a senior in high school and dreading the world.... to my freshman year in college and all of the joys and sorrows that come with that.... through meeting my future husband and describing how happy I was... to my mom having a rough day teaching at school or how she had enjoyed helping me plan for my wedding........ to learning my mom had breast cancer, not once, not twice but even ultimately the third time when it came back and we lost her. The smile on her face when I brought it to her at the hospital during that last stay was enough for me. That book was on my mom's bedside table at the hospital when we started discussing hospice and I quietly slipped it into my purse before my brothers arrived to say their goodbyes. My last entry to my mom was the day before she passed and I will never know for sure if she had the strength on her last night to read it but I believe in my heart that she did.
I pick up this treasured book every month or so and flip through the memories, rubbing my fingers on her handwriting and her I love yous. This stranger in Seattle would never know what gift she had given me and how incredible of a idea it was...... until .........
Years after my mother passed I was inspired (by my mother's spirit no doubt). In 2008 I decided to utilize the wonderful gifts that social media allows us which were nonexistent back in the 90s and google searched for Melissa. It was very easy to find her knowing the city they had lived in and her daughters name. Lo and behold- I located an email address and sent her a thank you letter detailing the impact of her idea and hoping it was truly her...and it was.
- Dear Cathy, Yes, I am the same Melissa Knapp and when I got your email, it brought tears to my eyes to know that my words, sent to Women’s Day magazine so long ago, actually made a difference to someone. How very kind of you to take the time and effort to write to me to let me know what the article meant to you. (How did you ever find my name? Google?) I am so glad that you and your mother were able to write to each other. So often our days speed by and we forget to have the meaningful conversations with those we love. I am thankful that I could have a small part in giving you that gift between you and your mother....You will never know what a lift your email has given me.
Wow! And it gets even better.....
A few months later I decided to write in to Woman's Day magazine 16 years after the original article.... and this is what they said
Thanks so much for writing to let us know how much the suggestion we ran in the magazine all those years ago impacted your life. It's truly a wonderful story and we'd like to share it with our readers. Would you be willing?
And so, ultimately they published this:
I thought I would share a couple of uplifting posts between my mom and I. Most of the posts are very private and I owe her to keep them that way. I did share this whole idea on facebook a few yeas ago when the second article came out and several of my friends with daughters or their own decided to start a book to communicate better.... and even some of my friends started one with their own aging mothers.
(That special movie we had gone to see was Beaches of all things..... LOVE!!!)
This book means more to me than a photo album or even some of those well worn recipes passed down.... it means love, forgiveness, trust, and a forever bond. I hope you will consider starting a special book like this with your son or daughter, or your parent or even your spouse. These encouraging words are truly something to live by. I love you mom!