Letters to my Children

For years I have thought my father should start a blog and name it "Letters to my Children."  It was actually my mother's idea, and while it's probably not relevant to anything my dad would blog about, it's still a great title. I wrote a letter to my son, Jamesie, as part of the writing course I took through Coffee + Crumbs this past winter. This letter is about finding love and happiness in parenthood, which is something Jamesie helps me discover daily. Who knows, maybe this will turn into series, but for now I hope you enjoy.

Dear James,

"When I die Dublin will be written on my heart." - James Joyce

Those words resonate with me as much today as they did when I called Dublin my home.  The year before you were born I hailed from the green isle, a student and employee, 'living the dream.' I thought the year I spent in Ireland was the best year of my life. The year before you were born.

I fell in love with the people and the culture of Ireland, as I would later fall in love with your tiny fists and indigo blue eyes. The country's vast beauty and diverse landscapes captured and ignited my sense of boundless adventure and endless possibility.

Many of my days were spent exploring the village of Howth, a haunt of the late James Joyce. When the weather was warm I sat on a bench in the sun and looked out at the Irish sea and fishing boats, all while indulging in the tastiest fish and chips known to man. When it was cold, I sat in the small pub at the end of the pier and sipped hot toddies and conversed with close friends. All year round I hiked up to the Summit with the wind in my face and the salt air filling my lungs just to get a glimpse of the stunning peninsula that opens my heart.

The paths I've traveled since those days were hardly predictable.  I wrenched myself away from Dublin and returned to the States to finish my education. I left a large and lively capital city with the convenience of Europe at my fingertips and moved back to the small, secluded college in New England I had once known well, but upon my return seemed ironically foreign.

Months were spent walking the same routes around campus, passing the same faces, learning from the same professors, and eating the same dining hall food. It was too easy for me to fall back into my old ways of studying and partying without the limitless I'd felt in Dublin. I resented my life in America and longed for the course Ireland promised. 

Then on a snowy day in late November I found out I was going to be a mother. I didn't realize it at the time, but now I know you were the answer to my prayers.  I asked God for a sign, and he gave me you. You became the beacon in the distance to guide me out of the dark waters that had trapped me.

Dublin left a hole in my heart, but the pain and the heartache I suffered from leaving that place also led me to the most cherished relationship in my life - my relationship with you.  So, I'm grateful for the scars on my heart and I embody Joyce's words in the light of you.

Your father and I embraced your life with timid, but faithful hands. I remember the feeling of utter exhaustion as I slept the short minutes between contractions curled in the small hospital bed, my hands safely cradled in your father's palms. I remember the shock of my water breaking and the feeling of those holy endorphins lifting me up through those last few centimeters of your un-medicated entry into this world.

I felt relief and empowerment after your birth - relief from the pain and worry, and empowered by strength and purpose as a parent. Without even trying to you showed me where to find the happiness I had been searching for since leaving Ireland.

Happiness is not the clothes we wear or the cars we drive. It can't be found on the grounds of Trinity College Dublin or in the teashop on the corner of Merrion Square. The happiness that sustains us is not in our office or even in our house.

The kind of happiness I am talking about is far greater than the love of a place.  It comes from the pain, sweat, and tears that brought you into this world.  It is the all-consuming love and crippling devotion of valued human relationships.  It is parenthood.

"When I die Dublin will be written on my heart."

I have an intimate understanding of those words. They're present in my mind, but they have faded and thinned against the impactful presence of motherhood.  Deeper lines of Christopher Robin and Hush, Little Baby now exist in my consciousness.

We spend many of our mornings running down the road and up the hill past a horse farm.  You look out from your stroller and point at the large animals grazing, while I push your weight with the comforting knowledge of how far I've come. We look across the hills of northern New Jersey together and that familiar feeling of adventure and possibility rises inside of me once again.

Dublin will always be a part of my heart, but when I die it's my children that will be written there.