September 17, 2001
Letter To My Daughter


Dear Jaymi:

Yes, your e-mail on Sunday morning was a surprise ... but not for the reasons you might think.

Was I surprised that you were writing an e-mail to your little brother (and copying me on the message)?  No. The impulse to reach out to the people we love -- our parents, our extended family, friends we've lost touch with over the years, even pesky little brothers -- is a prevailing one at the moment. I think I've written more e-mails/made more long-distance phone calls/sent more Hallmark cards (watch your mailbox this week, btw) in the last seven days than in the last seven YEARS put together. So I'm not at all surprised that you would want to write to Kyle and yell at him remind him of how incredibly precious our familial connections are ... right now, more than ever. 

If I knew how to reach *my* pesky little brother, I'd probably be doing the exact same thing.

Was I surprised that your e-mail was filled with such passion and patriotism? No, not at all. I think that these brand-new feelings of God and country have sort of snuck up on a lot of us this week. I spent half an hour this morning digging through drawers and boxes and mountains of junk, looking for the little American flag pin I bought at The Puyallup Fair in 1976. (I didn't find it. But I DID find your kindergarten I.D. bracelet, which I am carrying in my purse this morning as a sort of talisman ... along with your brother's Space Needle penny, the beaded bracelet your sister made for me last year, and 43,897,621 of my favorite photos of the three of you. I'm going to need a bigger purse pretty soon.)

Was I surprised that you were awake and writing e-mail at 5:20 a.m. on a weekend morning? Well ... yes, frankly. The last time I saw you voluntarily get up that early on a Sunday morning, you were hunting for your Easter basket.

But the biggest surprise for me, I think -- the thing that knocked your old mother for a loop -- was the way I felt when I opened your e-mail and read it yesterday morning. It probably shouldn't have been such a surprise: I have always known that you have a heart the size of a steel-belted radial. Furthermore, I have always known that people with hearts that huge find it more difficult to keep their biggest emotions under wraps. The steel-belted radial doesn't fall far from the tree, and all that.

I guess I simply wasn't prepared for how beautifully you expressed yourself, and by how powerfully I was affected by it.

I'm not sure that there is anything I can say today to try and make things all better, the way I could when you were four years old and your life was struck by the occasional childhood tragedy. This situation is a lot bigger and a lot more complex than a dead goldfish or a missing rag doll, obviously. This weekend you wrote, I just don't understand how stuff like this can happen. Me neither, Puss. I wish I had an easy answer. For instance, I would love to be able to tell you that stuff like this happens because some people carry a #x25-FN *Violence Chromosome* in their DNA, and that within the next ten years researchers expect to have a cure for it. But that's not the case. The truth is that I've never been able to understand how people can hate other people ... even when it's been *me* doing the hating.

But here's what I do know. I know that sometimes things happen for a reason ... and sometimes things happen for no reason at all ... and that trying to sort out the difference is a waste of perfectly good *reasoning molecules.* I know that there are some things that are bigger than hatred and ignorance. I know that action is better than inaction. I know that talking is better than keeping things bottled up. I know that we're never guaranteed a tomorrow, which just makes today all the more precious ... and makes it all the more important that we love and appreciate each other while we can.

And I know that I've got one hell of a terrific kid.

With all my love,

P.S. OK. I give up. What WERE you doing up at 5:20 a.m. on a Sunday morning??

throw a rock