Letter to Teddy, Spring 2012

June 11, 2012

Dear Teddy,

I feel like I’m neglecting you lately. It’s not that I don’t think of you often, I do. I think of you every day. I see you in the new climbing vines of the clematis I planted in your memory last year. When I chase after Dot in the park I wonder if you would have been a spitfire like her, all passion and motion, or if you would have been (as I suspect) a calmer and more grounded child. I whisper your name under my breath when I walk across campus. I wish you could whisper back.

But there’s not much I can do for you, is there? Not much besides remember. It’s hard to accept that. I want to build you a house, a place to keep you. I want to cook your favorite foods and wash your clothes and tell you bedtime stories and take you swimming. I want to see you playing catch with your father in the front yard. I want to help you learn to ride a bike.

I want to sneak in while you are asleep and bury my nose in your hair and inhale the smell of you.

I want to tell you stories about when you were, as your sister says, “teeny, tiny.”

I want to be “that mom” who embarrasses you by kissing you when I drop you off at school.

Oh, this longing to put love into action. It’s bittersweet and, for some reason especially on fine days like today, when the air is filled with sunlight and little breezes, when everything is green, and bright, and alive, it’s overwhelming.

And you’re beyond it. Perhaps not beyond the green and light and little breezes, but beyond my mediocre cooking, certainly. Beyond hair-ruffling and hugs. Beyond all of those games we wanted to play with you and those conversations we wanted to have.

I think that this, even all these years later, is the hardest thing to accept. Even when I convince myself that where you are is beauty and freedom and love, I get bogged down by how much I want to hold you. I probably always will.

See, you are dead, and I’m still “that mom.” I almost hope it embarrasses you, just a little.

But here, I will send you these thoughts, full of longing and missing and wishing and loving. And I’ll send you that story of you and your sister that I piece together in the back of my head, and I’ll send you this feeling I have that you’re part of the sunlit spring beauty of this day.

I hope it finds you, even though I still long for dirty laundry.



  1. *sniffle!* This is perfect, Erica.

  2. I do believe Teddy and is part of the green and the sunlight and the breeze, just like Henry. I believe they are part of the expanse of the ocean and the swirling star filled sky and the first strawberry and . . . )—but I’d much rather the laundry too.

  3. See, you are dead, and I’m still “that mom.” I almost hope it embarrasses you, just a little.

    Oh. Oh my heart. Your dear Teddy and dear you. It’s just so . . .(I’d swear if I was capable here) . . . .unfair.

    It’s hard isn’t it? It’s hard to want to do SO much and yet be able to do so very little. I want the hugs and laundry and hair-ruffling and my questionable cooking and the fights and the tantrums and screaming at two in the morning. I just want the whole lot. Want. Want. Want.

    But I can’t have it. So I’ll just have to sit here, sending thoughts with you. I hope that they find them somehow. I really do hope. And perhaps they are slightly embarrassed but also, hopefully, secretly proud.

  4. so beautiful…i have that longing too. So hard to articulate.

    • I meant to say, you did it beautifully.

  5. Such a beautiful post – you’re a strong, wonderful mama. You’ve managed to put into words what I’ve been thinking – I long to be that mama too. I long to hear “But mu-uuuuuuum!!” when I kiss my little boy’s muddy face after football practice. I’m a totally different Mum to the one I wanted, and want to be.

    • “And you’re beyond it.” It’s so hard to fathom how this can be.

  6. I long for dirty laundry too.

    So perfectly put, all of it, finding Teddy everywhere and nowhere, when all you really want is that little hand pulling at you, holding you, smearing pasta sauce on their t-shirt.

    Love to you and Teddy.

  7. Oh how lovely. I wish for all of those things too. And yep, I think I’m still that mum as well. God I miss them. How on earth has it been this long?

  8. This is so beautiful. And I feel the same, it’s those achingly gorgeous days that are the most difficult because my daughter is so close yet so far at the same time.

  9. “Oh, this longing to put love into action”. I teared up, reading your letter – for you and for Teddy and for all our thwarted mother hearts.

    You may not be able to put love into action for Teddy but, Erica, your words sing with it.

  10. This is beautiful. The love in action thing… And the feeling like things are too easy because I am supposed to have more to do, more children to take care of… (not that I don’t frequently have too much to do already) It’s not as acute now, but it doesn’t really go away.

    Sometime during my first year, someone wrote about how our love for so many close people, especially children, is so much about the active doing of things, not all of them pleasant. And how that makes the lack of doing so much harder to take.

    Grief through forced inaction? Grief in the forced inaction? I think this goes with the New Yorker article you quoted. I read the whole thing tonight (thank you for posting about it), and among other things it struck me how much doing was in the actively trying to parent both girls, and how acute and yawning the lack of doing seems in contrast.

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