Wednesday, March 2, 2011


There are some times when a mother can't help but feel like a failure. Especially when she gets a phone call late afternoon, from a member of the Campus Ministry Team at her son's school, reminding her to send in the now overdue letter she was supposed to write for her son's 8th grade Recollection, which is on Friday. Especially when all she does is write.

To be honest, I'm not up to snuff on the Recollection stuff. Or, for that matter, any of the Catholic stuff. Max attends a Catholic school, and even though I was raised Catholic, I didn't listen much. But that's no excuse. I should be more attentive. Especially when my kids are in Catholic schools. And why we send him to this particular Catholic school, aside from its rigorous academics and excellent fine arts program, has a lot to do with the Campus Ministry phone call. And those people behind the calls. It's about caring, and watching out for one another, and taking the time to call slackers and say, Hello, did you forget? (No, no! I didn't honest *God strike me dead* I'm bringing it in tomorrow morning!) It's about teaching kids not only academic crap they'll forget years down the road, but about the power of kindness, and compassion, and dare I say, even prayer: Moments to meditate, to ponder their soul, to think about their purpose in this world, and how their actions, their thoughts, have real effect on mankind. How they can use all of their gifts and talents to better the world.

Hey, is that not Recollection?

Well, when I was a girl it meant begging for forgiveness for all the bad things I did (oh, and there were so many, but sometimes I had a stretch of a few good days and had to make things up for confession so as not to appear too perfect) from secret, and very stern, priests hiding in dark, screened booths. Oh, wait a minute, that was Confession! Or Penance. Or something scary like that. (Sorry, 'tis all I remember from my Catholic school days.)

So, because I'm a seriously deficient Catholic mother, I looked up the term on a religious website and found this definition for Recollection: Attention to the presence of God in the soul. It includes the withdrawal of the mind from external and earthly affairs in order to attend to God and Divine things. It is the same as interior solitude in which the soul is alone with God.

Moments to meditate. This sounds like a good idea to me. Not too scary. Take a breather. Reflect. Withdraw the mind "from external and earthly affairs in order to attend to God and Divine things." Recollect. I guess I wasn't too far off with that first thought. Phew. Perhaps there's still hope for this Catholic lady.

The letter. The letter is to be delivered to the students at some point during their day of Recollection this Friday. The theme, this year, for Recollection: Belonging. I thought that was a beautiful theme, and why I didn't respond immediately I don't know. I mean, what an opportunity, what a precious gift to give to your child. A letter. About belonging. Don't we all need to feel like we belong. Maybe I had to let the theme percolate.

In any event, it's done. Sealed. And includes a photo of Max when he was just a very little man hangin' and jivin' in bouncy seats. I hesitate to publish my letter here, but there's this voice saying, Oh Hell, tell the world how you feel about your son, and belonging. And then there's the other voice that says, It's private. And yet another that says, Boy, this is going to confirm how kooky your mother is, poor kid.

But no matter, we're all kooky in our own way, aren't we? And we all belong somewhere, doing some thing, being some one. In our own kooky way. So if you want to look at some kooky mom's letter, you can read more below. If not, stop here, and recollect. (You don't have to be Catholic or religious to do that.) You belong.

“No house should ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be of the hill. Belonging to it. Hill and house should live together each the happier for the other.”
                                                     ~Frank Lloyd Wright

Dearest Max,

Yes, that’s a photo of you. A Polaroid snapshot. (And a cute one, too.) Most people aren’t using Polaroids any longer, even though it was, at one time, the quickest way to get a photo. But the images weren’t so special, as you can see; unless you were the subject, of course. Nor are people using 35mm film, and that’s because it takes infinitely more skill to capture quality images with the old 35mm film and camera.  It’s much easier to point and click and develop images from a digital camera, so that’s why digitals are so popular. Only in rare instances, in the case of the artist, is 35mm film preferred. The artist understands the value of the old film process. The artist is patient, and takes time to develop, manipulate, and create the product he dreams and desires. The product, of course, is the end result. And the end result is pure and beautiful because it’s made with love, care and passion.

When you were first thrust into this world, Max (without asking, or ever asking why) that’s what you were made from: Love, care and passion. You were dreamt and desired. The artists who created you weren’t really sure what the end product would look like, but they knew their creation would be very, very special. They knew their creation would be a living, breathing image of Love.

And so, there you were, thrust into the world, left to process this vast universe and figure out just what you were doing here. With the heart and soul of an artist, you observed, listened, touched, tasted, sensed everything. You drooled on it, too. Boy did you drool. (It’s good to be able to drool over stuff.)

See Tigger in the picture? You struggled and fought your way upright in that chair so you could swat Tigger a hundred thousand times. You drooled on him, too. Swatting Tigger, watching him twirl around the metal bar, made you squeal with pleasure.

And then, in that same bouncy chair, you would reach for the mirror and stare at yourself. Good, long stares, as if to say, Humph, this is me, look at me, I’m really here, and I’m going to devour this Here and this Now.

It’s true, you wholeheartedly accepted the Here and Now. And you still do. You engage, you enjoy, you explore, you soak it all up and then wring it back out at the world. And the world loves you for this. The world loves that you appreciate the simplest things in life. Like swatting Tigger and musing upon your own face.

This is also what Dad and I, and your ‘lil sister Lulu, love about you. It’s what everyone loves about you. You are a very generous soul, a person of great compassion, understanding, and faith. And you’re beginning to cultivate your own world, make your own connections, follow your own path, and figure out where it is you belong in the world. You will do this your own way, but you know some of it has to be done the old fashioned way—like 35mm photography—with time and effort. That can be a scary process in the vastness of this universe. Your family knows this, and we love you and support you and are excited for you. We know that you’ve been set down on this Earth with the qualities to courageously, skillfully, with much thought and appreciation, shoot and create and develop a worthwhile life. The life you dream and desire. A beautiful life, filled with joy and passion and love.

And you are so worthy of joy, passion, and love. You are its very essence.

So, know that your family will always be here for you, but go and take your pictures. Draw and paint your masterpieces. Write and whistle and kick around soccer balls to your heart’s desire. Build ships and temples and skyscrapers. Whatever it is you intend or desire to do is yours for the taking. Follow your heart; be true to yourself. You’ll find that’s exactly where you belong.

I love, support, accept and cherish you for exactly who you are—yesterday, today and always—my little man.
All my love,


  1. Gorgeous letter of love, passion and joy. I hope he enjoy reading it as much as I did.

    Of course you just made the rest of the mom world green with envy - overachiever!

  2. Magnifique. I'm pretty sloppy on Catholic observance myself, having given it up for Lent some years ago. But I get meditation, reflection. Navel gazing, even.
    As for the letter, you've done a brilliant job of encapsulating the love of a parent for a child. Reading it, I could see Little Danger (replacing Yoda for Tigger.) I imagine that any parent could hear their voice in it.
    Thank you for sharing.

  3. Sometimes a blog post leaves me a little bit lost for words and this is one of those occasions.
    Your letter is very personal and very moving and something I really relate to.
    Thanks for sharing it with us.

  4. Great letter, and I have to agree with Shopgirl with the whole overachiever thing. Just lay off already so the rest of us can look good.

  5. I'm seriously deficient in this regard Jayne.
    The other day it was: "Where were you?"
    "At the awards ceremony. All the parents of the other kids were there."
    I'm like" "What awards ceremony?"

  6. I love this >> Recollection: Attention to the presence of God in the soul.

    I also love your header photo.

    I'm now following you. Not in a stalker kind of way, LOL, but in the good kind of "You're not so kooky to me" way!

  7. Jane - How beautiful. I am sure Max will absolutely love this letter. It's so important to tell your child just how much they mean to you, and thank you for sharing something so personal with us.

  8. Jayne this was just gorgeous. I found it very moving to read the letter you wrote about your son.

  9. I don't know how you can write like that and feel like a failure at the same time. Beautiful.

  10. Shopgirl- I think you're the first person that ever accused me of being an overachiever... Thank you!! (I always thought I was a late blooming underachiever. Seriously.) Btw, loved that poem, girl. You can add a new occupation to your profile. ;)

    DB- LOL - given it up for Lent! And they make Yoda bouncy seats now? Cool. I think my little guy would have preferred Yoda, had he a choice.

    Paul- My pleasure. Was it the drooling part? Maybe I overdid it on the drooling, huh?! :)

    Michelle- You are always looking good, lady. ;)

    David- Ha! That sounds very familiar. We just can't do it all, can we?!

    Cassandra- Thanks for joining us! So glad you're here. Although I must warn you, I may start to look very kooky to you. ;)

  11. Bth- Totally agree. We should never hesitate to let anyone know how much we care. I'm glad I was nudged by this assignment. :)

    SF- Thank you. I hope he feels the same way. ;)

    Fickle- Believe me, it's easy! So many shortcomings... could fill volumes. ;)

    Lin Ann- :-D Can I have some cookies now?

    Laoch- I'm trying to train myself to put the a before the o in your name, but it's not easy! And I keep wondering about its origin. Hmm..... Anyway, thank you. ;)

  12. I'd been feeling huge aggravation today, frustrated at nearly everything I've encountered.

    Now, I'm in love with little Max--the idea of him, the dream of him just as he is--and my aggravation is eased.

    Sweet post, even for this fallen away Reform Evangelical Druid. Good recovery on the letter, Mom.

  13. I'm right there with you! I had three letters due for my niece and nephews and I blew it. I waited until the midnight hour and they barely arrived on time. I think of writing as an escape an although life might require a note or two from me it doesn't mean it won't be given begrudgingly.

  14. My kids attended Catholic school too, for the very reasons you mention here. Their education formed a great foundation for them in so many ways as they make their way through the years.

  15. What a fantastic letter. And a lucky guy to have such a great mom.

  16. What a beautiful, moving letter. Thank you for sharing it with us!

  17. Don't be too hard on yourself, as you were in the early parts of this blog!

  18. Nance- You always pique my interest: "Reform Evangelical Druid"? I am imagining this as some kind of progressive schism?
    I'm glad you found some light in your day. My little guy tends to bring that to people. :)

    Tana- It's impossible to keep up with! Can't imagine three letters. That's quite a challenge. I'd find a warm place under a rock.

    Joanne- Exactly. I like the attention to the whole person. The spirit. And Catholic school is not like it was when I attended. Respect is given to other religions, and it's no longer about the wrath of God. Good messages all around.

    Sally-Sal- Thanks. My kids kind of force me to be a better person. It's a process. ;)

    Lydia- Thank you! I'd like to think it represents how all parents feel about their children. :)

    Kid- It comes with the territory. I'm always kickin' myself. I'll try layoff for the weekend! ;)

  19. Kinda lost for words here, that was tear-jerkingly beautiful the way you put that piece together.

  20. It seems that all of us are glad you chose to let us read the letter. Whatever sort of pointy stick it takes to make us sit, recollecting, and examine our truth is for the good. It don't believe it is possible to have - receiving or giving - too much love. We are blessed to witness such pure heart connection, to be reminded of love and the Divine in our own lives.

  21. My own son went to Catholic school and I so remember these letters. I am glad we wrote them and glad we were invited to set these things down for him. Your letter is beautiful and deeply felt and I know your son is moved by it, no doubt more than he will express right now.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! I will be back here for sure!

  22. Dan- That little man brings out the best in me. ;)

    Marylinn- And we can never be reminded of it too much, right? I'm going to work on recollection more often, and with that pointy stick.

    Angella- Yes - the best invitation I'ver ever received! When my son came home after school that day, he gave me an enormous hug, and hung on for a little longer than usual. Pretty sweet stuff. :)