Once upon a time, there was a famous blogger named Dooce who wrote a letter to her daughter every month for the first five years of her life. Eventually, the letters were turned into a book, which made the already rich and famous blogger even more rich and famous.
I thought the letter idea was so cool, but I was loath to becoming a copycat, so, I never wrote you any letters on the blog. At least, I don’t remember writing any. But, now, you’re almost 13, and time is running out. I guess I’m destined to be a copycat.
In six short years, you will graduate from high school. The years have sped by so fast! I’ll never forget May 2008, when I came home to stay with you and your sisters. You were almost four, and you had spent most of your young life in daycare. The truth is I hardly knew you.
I had always been a reluctant careerist, and I hated those daycare years. I will never forget the smell of disinfectants and diapers wafting through the hallways as I dropped you off with strangers every morning. Those years tore me up in ways that only the saints can understand.
That first summer we were home together, you went barefoot and wore a little wife-beater T-shirt every day. One day, my mom came over and said, “Look at him! He’s a little he-man.”
I’d wondered if I was seeing things right, but she confirmed it. At age four your upper arms had definition. You’ve kind of always been swinging from the chandeliers, Sully. The house has been your jungle, and I fear you’ve outgrown the wide-open field I always wanted you to have.
In many ways, I curse this urban life. It’s not what I wanted for you and your sisters, but we leased this house in December 2004, and then we bought it the following July. You were born in August, and about a year later, the Great Recession hit. It was September 2008, and we owed more on the house than it was worth.
Never underestimate a Great Recession or what it can do to you, Son.
Plenty of Americans were unfazed by the stock market crash, but not Daddy and me. I was staying at home with you and your sisters, and your dad was underemployed. The sewer line collapsed underneath the brick driveway and there was no money to fix it. Every day, the sewage backed up in the plastic laundry tub in the basement, and it took hours for it to drain.
This nightmare went on for more than a year, and it was hellish, Sully. Eventually, we were able to get the sewer line replaced, but only after your dad dug a huge hole nine feet deep.
In September, it will have been a decade since the real estate industry burst and the world financial system collapsed right alongside our sewer main. Sometimes, I still think about those days. Occasionally, after you and Bridgy are tucked in bed, Daddy and I sit in the dark living room surrounded by the blue hue of a muted TV. I mumble as I catch my breath from another long day in this one short life, “Remember when we lived with sh*t in the basement?”
There’s an important lesson here, Sully. Something big I want you to learn. Even though living with sh*t in the basement tore me up, we slogged through the crisis and things got better. In 13 years, we’ve never missed a house payment, and we’re not upside down anymore.
Things always pass, son, and sometimes, they flip. The poor are always becoming rich and the strong are always becoming weak. The last are always becoming first and the first are always becoming last. The only thing that doesn’t change is Father God. He is always there for you. So, too, is Mother Mary and her mother St. Anne. They will intercede for you along with all the saints. Never live without prayer. To do so is to rob your very own life of enchantment and mystery and fellowship with the Divine.
Sometimes, sh*t in the basement felt like the end of the world, Sully. But, it passed, and now the fruits of that long-suffering are going to carry us home.
You’ll face tough times in life, Son, just like Daddy and me. Be strong and courageous. Sing through the fire and flood and the hell of it all, and never let anyone or anything get the best of you. Because all of you is the best of you, and no matter what happens, I’m always holding you, right here. Right here in my heart.