by J. Speer
It was Mother’s Day. Layla sat down at the table to work on a letter to her daughter. She knew that usually mothers were the ones to receive gifts on this special day. However, this time was different. In 16 years of motherhood, Layla had received all kinds of gifts from flower bouquets to hugs and kisses to little hand imprints in clay. She had experienced the morning breakfasts and the nice time spent sleeping in. But this year, she was a bit melancholy. In a few weeks, her daughter would be going to live with relatives on the coast. It was what Layla wanted for her children but she was sad inside from time to time.
She wanted to write something fantastic and amazing. She searched her memories of family vacations or school activities or sports events….but 16 years had come and gone so fast that it all blended together and she really had to focus on specific moments. She remembered the first time she felt her daughter. She was maybe 23 at the time. Layla had been resting. She had started to get the morning sickness and that was the first clue. The pregnancy test came back positive. In the first trimester, she almost miscarried. The first time she felt her daughter was in that bed resting. Her hand was across her flat bare abdomen and she felt a tiny movement. She touched the spot gently. It was a hard bump near her right inner hip the size of a quarter. She touched it with the tips of her fingers and it moved slightly. That’s when she first felt what it was to be a mother.
The sonograms were inconclusive about the sex of the child. The black and white screen showed the baby bouncing playfully around in the womb. Three sonograms were performed and the doctor said he was 90% certain it would be a boy because the legs were crossed each time. Layla decorated the nursery with yellows and greens, neutral tones just in case. It surprised her husband when their beautiful baby girl arrived.
The delivery took almost all day. The labor was intense.
Her daughter grew and grew and grew through the years, through good days and sometimes bad days. No matter what happened, Layla and her children rarely parted. They stood together side by side and there was nothing Layla loved more than holding their little hands in hers. When the children got to be teenagers, that was what she missed the most of all.
As her daughter grew, Layla also learned to love all the exact same things her child loved. When her daughter liked art, Layla bought her all the drawing books and art supplies she could find. When her daughter liked soccer, Layla sat in the stands cheering and clapping. When her daughter moved on to books and anime and movies, Layla moved on too. To Layla, nothing her daughter chose was ever wrong. Her daughter could have liked rock throwing and Layla would be out there with her searching for the perfect rock to throw. As her daughter’s interests grew, so did Layla’s.
Her daughter started high school eventually. Layla helped her to the school entrance with all her school supplies and wished her well. Her daughter learned to drive a car. Layla tried to take her out test driving and prayed when her daughter finally headed off to school in her new vehicle paid for with small savings. It wasn’t a beauty of a car but it ran and Layla hoped it wouldn’t be too embarrassing to drive.
When her daughter said she wanted to visit family on the coast, Layla encouraged her. She wanted her child to explore and see the world. It was what Layla wanted for her child but the thought of separation made her blue sometimes.
16 years had come and gone. 16 wonderful years that didn’t seem enough to Layla. Not enough time to teach her daughter. There was so much Layla wanted to say but couldn’t say. She didn’t want to jade her daughter or trample her hope or her optimism for the future.
For 16 years, her children were her reason….
the reason she worked…..
the reason she saved any money…..
the reason she made choices like she did…..
Layla packed the bags for the coast. She bought new swimsuits and beach wear clothes. She gave her daughter her best stuff for the trip, put together a Spotify playlist, and bought Google photo albums of their past memories for a going away gift.
And now Layla was writing a letter. She wanted to say something profound but she had nothing really. To tell the truth, she was a bit afraid. If her daughter left, what would she do with herself? Who would be there at night after work? Who could she talk to? Who would she protect or feel a purpose providing for?
It was a new journey for her daughter but also for her……a transformation of sorts.
She wished her daughter the best and so she wrote it in the letter. She asked her daughter to be safe and wise. She hoped her daughter would find someone to love and be loved in return. And she told her daughter, she would always be in her heart even as they were apart.
She signed the little letter, put it in the envelope, and hid it in her top drawer of her dresser. She decided to give it to her daughter the day of the flight at the airport…..too much to say and yet, not enough to say.