"There should be a statute of limitations on blaming your parents for the problems in your life."
I read that pithy statement somewhere recently (unfortunately mommy alzheimer's prevents me from remembering where--if anybody out there recognizes the quote, please let me know so I can credit it appropiately). I thought it was one of the truest things I'd heard in a long time. Of course having three children myself, and being excruciatingly aware of how many things I do wrong on a daily basis, gives me the necessary perspective for appreciating the truth of it.
I just finished reading an essay on the invisible privileges held unawares by men, whites, and others in dominant positions in society (linked to by Dale McGowan at the Meming of Life--one of my favorite bloggers, I wait breathlessly for new posts in spite of knowing that he also has three children and a zillion things to do:)). An insightful essay, and a well-written post by Dale, which for some reason shot me off on a completely different tangent.
The idea of invisible knapsacks of privilege we carry around with us, unaware of their contents, unaware even that we have such an accessory suddenly made it clear why I have been unable to write the letter to my parents that for years now I have felt a pressing urge, a duty, to compose. Every time I tried to write it, even just to say "thank you", it seemed so.... incomplete. So much unsaid. So much to say, so much I feel grateful for, indebted for, that a few sheets of letter paper seemed woefully inadequate. One of those loooooong egyptian scrolls would be better, but probably fussy to read. An invisible knapsack, with ideas and values, prejudices and preferences, put in by our parents, stuck together with things passed on with things from their parents, things that I'm sometimes only dimly aware of, or that I couldn't even access until I had children myself (all those things your mother tells you you won't understand until you have children of your own--and when you do you discover she was right)--well, no wonder it was so hard. There's just too much in that knapsack to be able to write about it all at once without it turning into The Illiad, or the Book of Leviticus.
So what this post really is, is the beginning of a *very* long letter to my parents. The one I've always meant to write, but never had a sheet of paper long enough. In posts, little by little, as I discover yet another treasure they packed into my knapsack, I'll write about it, and try (however inadequately) to say thank you. To let them know that I've found what they put in there. That I understand what it's for, and how profoundly grateful I am to have it, that they thought to put it in there. Some of the things maybe they don't know they put into my knapsack, but they should. Some of the things I find are sometimes things that hurt, things that I should take out and try not to put into my kids' knapsacks. Now that I'm an adult (most of the time), I can take those sorts of things out. Look at them, evaluate them, use what I know now as a parent to understand how they got in there, and decide what to do with them.
I realize this particular post is lacking in specifics, but the specific things I'm thankful for deserve to be elaborated on in posts of their own. The letter would turn into a bullet point list otherwise. In fact, most of the things I've written about here are unsaid thank yous, and many things I plan to write about come from that sense of need to tell my mom and dad how much I love them, and how much I have to thank them for. How grateful I am, now that I see all my less than stellar traits parsed out among my children, that they didn't sell me to the gypsies. That I understand why we have children exactly like ourselves (what--you thought there was no justice in the world?). The title of this post is what my mom says my grandma always used to say. I never really understood it--but I have three good reasons to now:)
I've never said thank you or I love you enough--like Cordelia (and my dad), "I cannot heave my heart into my mouth". But mom and dad--keep reading, because almost everything I write here is really my way of saying thank you, and I love you.