The automatic door on the passenger side of my minivan stopped working a while back. Luckily, with the help of a kind stranger in the drug store parking lot, I was able to slide the door closed permanently. Until today, I haven’t been able to open it.
Since the door debacle, the children have been forced to climb up to the front row of the vehicle in order to exit the van at school drop-off every morning. I had hoped that we would continue this routine for some time, but their growing bodies and stuffed backpacks made it difficult. After months of holding up the carpool line and forcing them to endure this ridiculous obstacle course, I decided I needed to apply all resources available and fix the door.
Today I spent five hours, yes five, at the car dealership waiting for the work to be completed on my minivan. Fortunately the children were with their father this weekend. The time actually passed quickly. I read a book, drank a lot of coffee, and finally had the chance to write our twins a letter to mark their 7th birthday.
Seven years…it is hard to believe. I am two months late on this particular letter. Work and life have just gotten in my way.
When our twin boys were born, I began this tradition of writing them both personal letters on stationary every year. I then seal the letters and wrap them with ribbon before storing them in their individual keepsake boxes with the tiny outfits they wore home from the hospital and other cherished items.
I remember the day we took them home so clearly. It was cold. Snow and ice made the drive treacherous. I cried out of fear for the tiny infants who slept peacefully in the backseat. Or perhaps it was the realization that we were on our own to care for these two creatures, no longer assisted by the hospital staff. Then again, maybe it was baby blues…who knows? I cried though, the entire way home. My now ex-husband was compassionate and tried to reassure me that all would be well as he cautiously drove. How would we manage? Caring for twins seemed so daunting, though I had an entire pregnancy to mentally prepare.
Little did I know that those first few sleep-deprived months would only serve as preparation for the challenges that lay ahead. Like Superstorm Sandy, which destroyed the only bathroom in our home, forcing me to bathe them at one of a handful of friend’s houses each night. And then of course, there was the lengthy legal battle in divorce court that benefited no one but our lawyers. We lost our life savings and our home as a result.
And yet, each year, I continue to add another letter to the bundle of letters in their boxes around their birthday. It is my hope that someday when I am gone, they will have these mementoes not only to remember me, but more importantly to get a glimpse of their own development with each passing year.
There are six letters in total now. I missed their second birthday entirely. Like the rings on a tree trunk that mark the healthy years and those of drought, the absence of the second letter documents the worst year of all…the beginning of the end of our family as I had imagined it.
My letters make no mention of the hard times, however. I share the boys’ accomplishments, like making it to level G in reading. I describe their struggles as they learn how to relate to their classmates who sometimes use unkind words. I thank them for loving and protecting each other, as well as their baby brother, and I offer my prayers that they will grow to be strong, healthy men. The letters are solely about them—not the mistakes and misfortunes of their parents. They hear too much already about all of that.
I wonder if they will remember how they had to climb to the front of our minivan each morning during first grade. Hopefully if they do, they will laugh at the silly challenges that we faced. Life is full of hurdles, after all. Let the minivan be the worst of their memories.