For my twenty-ninth birthday, my mother sent me a word document filled with hundreds of emails I had sent her over the course of the summer of 2000, when I was nineteen. The email said:
Subject: For you... ten years ago.
Happy early Birthday. This is a gem. I didn't edit a word.
Love you to the moon and back,
A little back story = When I was nineteen I spent my first summer in Europe. I spent the first few weeks with my Nana who had generously gifted me the opportunity to travel by her side via The Orient Express through Paris, Rome and Venice. We then traveled all over Florence and Tuscany, me pushing her wheelchair over miles of cobblestone road as she guarded my teenaged body with the cane she kept cocked and ready "to smack any despicable men who try to flirt with you! Drat and curses!" The day after my nineteenth birthday, Nana left me in Paris where for the first time, I was to navigate a foreign land on my own.
I spent the remainder of my summer in Paris, London and all around the UK.
It was an incredible journey - the summer that forged a lifelong friendship between my Nana and me - but also, and I'm only now, today, realizing this - twas the summer that became the beginning of a sort of a deep unparalleled bond between me and my mother.
I honestly have no recollection of most of the experiences I've spent the last four hours sifting through with mortifying glance but thanks to the weeks and weeks my mother spent tediously copying and pasting them into a word doc, I now know that they exist. That I existed, in a very different (or so I hope!) way than I do now.
Here is an example of one of the emails which I refuse to edit for typos because it deserves to be appreciated in its natural state of OMGWTFness:
July 5. 2000
i faxed you the thing twice, i hope it went through, it should of, maybe call just to make sure... god, you will not believe the extent of marks every day surprises, dont worry, i sent him the email, there is nothing... god, no... i really do care about him, and think that i could love him... i get that feeling when im with him, like no one else is in the room, and ive only ever felt that with jason, but i havent thought about jason since ive been in london, and i guess mark is good for that... ill explain all the juicy-holy hells- later.... so after mark and i hung out...he had to go be with his pregnant girlfriend, shes pregnant with the previous boyfriend, and then hes a bit f-ed because he impregnanted a co worker a few weeks back, and just found yesterday, his girlfriend doesnt know.... but he got his hiv test back, and hes negative which is such a huge relief becuase he already has genital warts and ghonerea... i swear, god....but at least he's honest with me, i mean i have never touched him... sooooooooo, ahhhhhhh... okay, wellllll, tomorrow im going to the tate with sonia and her friend... i met anthea tonight, and i was like, huh.... really, are you real.... and we had had a bit of wine, and she kept bringing in more, and before we knew it we couldn't even see each other becuase their was so much wine in our midst, i told them all my quirky stories, and sonia and her friend just laughed... they love americans, they say... love you. i tried calling, anyways, goodnight ol chap.... im a bit pissed.... heeheee, that means drunk in the british toungue... but in agood way, because i drank good french wine, and a bit of white wine with mark, because i was so shocked at his news of being pregnant with diseases that my glass kinda flipped up in the air, and suddenly i was laughing about it, instead of being totally perplexed.... well, im still perplexed, but you know, its all sort of..... wait. i should not be emailing you, pissed and drunk because tomorrow you will email me back very worried about my health, but im fine, and so are my breasts, everything is working beautifully, and im still rockin da mic.... love and kisses on your nose and your toes, i suppose............peace mate.***
I'll give you a moment to digest that...
My first thought after reading: HOW COULD THIS HAVE BEEN ME? My second thought? How could my mother, who once fainted at the mere sight of my nose-piercing, grounded me for being past curfew and refused to let me sleep over at my friend's house because her parents smoked, have possibly loved me in this state of WTFness? No matter what I wrote her (and this is only one of but 100+ emails I sent to her that summer that she saved) she never judged or got angry or treated me like the child I absolutely was. She just loved me and let me explore myself and the world and apparently shady dudes named Mark.
Earlier in the letters I came across the following email:
June 14, 2000
i am writing you from a sidewalk cafe on the venetian street... there is an orchestra playing before me... they are on a quick cigar break, and then they will play again in a minute... well, i was just thinkingabout how much i love you, and it makes me want to cry when i think about how amazing you are, i was telling nana how perfect i think you are, and she says, nobody is, and i said youre right, but i think my mom is as close as they come.... and you are, i love you more than anything.... and i am thinking of you right now, at this cafe in the most beautiful place in the world...
And then it all became perfectly clear. It was her love made me fearless. I didn't have to hide who I was or what I did - no matter how shallow, silly, even dangerous... She trusted me. Maybe because she knew she had to. I was on my own, legally an adult, and yet she could have easily responded much differently than she did. With fear instead of with love. With "the delete" button instead of the "save for rebecca to send to her in ten years" folder.
Instead of holding on to me for dear life, she was generous enough to let me go - to let me be - and to trust that I would make the right decisions. Which in turn gifted me the confidence to trust myself. As a woman and writer, daughter then mother. No matter who judged me, she wouldn't dare. That was never her deal. And so? I was always safe. For twenty-nine years, I have been safe.
There was no one but her that I emailed that summer. No girlfriends or boyfriends... At nineteen years old I felt most comfortable sharing and confiding in my mother. And ten years later? I still do.
After she sent me the letters yesterday, I called to thank her and to laugh over how silly and insane I sounded.
"How could you have possibly loved me with a straight face?" I asked.
To which she replied, "What do you mean? How could I not?"
And I understood. Of course I understood. Ten years later and I'm a mother too. I know how it feels to love the same way, no the matter... "How could I not?"