Janie: “I love you, mama.”
Jane: “I love you too, baby girl.”
You were a good kid, Janie. For the most part, of course, but what kid doesn’t have their faults? That’s what parents are for.
Anyway, you were a good kid.
When you were younger, and first starting elementary school, we grew quite close. I don’t know if you remember, but by the time you were in 2nd grade, you still considered me your best friend, even out of all your other classmates. I wore that badge with bride, I’ll hope you know. I bragged about it to your father whatever chance I got (so, the infrequent moments he was home).
And the title wasn’t for nothing. We did a great deal together.
Jane: “How was school, honey?”
Janie: “Bleh. My teacher hates me.”
We would sit and talk at the dinner table while you ate. I was trying to lose a bit of weight at the time, so I would mostly skim through novels while you ate. But it was valuable time with you either way.
Other times, we would just sit and talk on your bed. I would tell you stories, give you life advice, tell jokes. I hope you remember at least some of it. I hope that you remember a time when I took that time with you, to sit and talk and be your mother. You didn’t get a lot of it when you were older, and I know it’s something you resent; it’s something I deeply regret. Hopefully, some those early conversations left their imprint on you.
I know that at least one thing did-my love of books and the creative arts.
Janie: “Can I do my homework later?? I’m reading!”
It made my heart happy, every time I saw you with a book cracked open. I probably should have encouraged you to do your homework more, to focus in class instead of reading Lucas Dark novels under your desk. But I just couldn’t bring myself to chastise you. You were indulging in the creative word. In my mind, there is nothing more beautiful than that, and better able to teach you. And I read your homework, Janie; let me tell you, you didn’t miss anything important. “Which weighs more, a pound of feathers or a pound of rocks?” Really, the inanity of such questions. A pound of rocks obviously weighs more!!
The other thing that I shared with you, over the course of our conversations and your growth, was the shared dream of a coffee shop (of all things). I don’t remember when I first began talking to you about it, but I distinctly remember a conversation we had about it when you were around eight. We were sitting at the dinner table. You were eating mac and cheese, and I was reading a science fiction book (not usually my style, but I was doing some research for a new project of my own).
You were speaking somewhere between bites of pasta and cheese.
Jane: “Yes, love?”
I looked up from my book, dog-earing the page so as not to lose my spot, and closed the book, giving you my full attention.
Janie: “What will the coffee shop look like?”
It took me a moment to remember what you were talking about. But, once I recalled the coffee shop you were speaking of-what was to be our coffee shop, our own business, our own hub and recharging station for intellectuals and creative minds-I smiled widely at you.
Jane: “Well, the outside will be all brick. Gray, or maybe red. But something classy. Timeless. The windows will be large, looking in on the seating, so that anyone who stops by can get some inspiration from our gorgeous views.”
You looked out the window of our own home, as if to take in our gorgeous views for yourself.
Jane: “And the inside will be even better. It will smell like chocolate chip cookies, which we’ll sell, and dark roast coffee. One wall will be lined with coffee machines and tea brewers. The seating will be cozy-some normal dining chairs, but mostly arm chairs and coffee tables. Places where people can sit and be creative for hours. And there’ll be a piano in the corner, in case anyone wants to play.”
You smiled me.
Janie: “That sounds great. And it’ll be kind of small, right? Homey? I don’t want our coffee shop to look too much like a business.”
Jane: “We’ll make sure it’s very homey.”
I remember not being able to stop smiling for the rest of the day. Our business.
The coffee shop had always been a dream of mine. But now, it was our dream, a collective. A family dream. I think that’s what made us the best of friends, at the time. A shared goal. Something that we both wanted. Even though you were young, it was something that brought us together. I relished. I craved it. I needed it. Because I had never had it before. It was a gift, to share that dream with you. I wish I held onto more firmly, committed to it more fiercely. That’s not where my creative drive took me. But my love for you should have led me to chase that family dream with all I had.
Your father didn’t share the dream.
For the most part, it was just you and I at home. Your father worked from 10 to 7 on most days of the week, so he wasn’t home much before you went to bed, and he certainly wasn’t awake when you left for school at 8. Even so, you still found time to get along with even him.
Your father did still spend quite a bit of his time at home playing with Samuel. While he mostly did it while you were at school, you were not best pleased with him when he took time away from your playtime with Samuel.
Janie: “Sorry about that, Samuel. My dad is such a weirdo sometimes, I don’t know why he still wants to play with kid toys like you.”
All in all, your early elementary school life was a happy one, from what I can tell. You were always smiling, always grinning from ear to ear, always willing to sit down with your father or I and have a chat or tell a joke or talk about a story from school. You were quite the chatterbox, really-I was surprised how outgoing you were, considering how much of a loner I was, but you seemed to want to be quite the social butterfly!
This, however, was only the beginning. You still needed me, at least a little, back then. You still considered me your best friend, and I still wasn’t ready to let go. But, it wasn’t long before the creative instinct inside of me rioted for attention. When you were young, you see, I didn’t write very often at all. I wanted to spend time with you. So I took some time out of the day, while you were at school, to write the stories I wanted to write. Between cleaning and cooking and running errands and paying bills, of course. But it wasn’t enough. I didn’t to tend to my creative drive.
And doing so sent it all to hell. I have apologized, I feel, a lot in this letter already. But this seems to warrant another one. I am sorry that my need to master writing, to conquer the challenge of writing, and to tend to my creative instincts in other ways, led to not only the neglect of you, but the neglect of our dream, our family drive: the coffee shop.