i am riting to say i luv u.
luv Alice (age 4)
Today the teacher said we haf to rite a leter to r heros. Yur my hero becuz u reed to me and tell me stuf evin when yur bizy.
Love yur dotter Alice (age 5)
P.s. I drawed u a flowr.
I know your always busy, so I wrote a letter to tell you about my day. You can read it at lunch. They let you not work at lunch, right? Mrs. Lenard is reading us a book called flat stanly. It is funny. I do not want to be flat becuz bad things happen to. I like being me.
Love, Alice (age 7)
Mrs. Lawson told us to write a letter in our writing journals. We don't have to show it to anyone, but it's supposed to be for someone we like. I know I did something like this before, but I don't remember what I said. She gave us 15 minutes for this and I don't know what to write. I know you work hard so we have money for food, but some times I miss you. I don't want you to get layed of or anything, but I wish you didn't have to work so hard. I wish I could help. Dad says that me and Izzy watching Simon helps, but we do that any way.
Love, Alice (age 10)
P.S. I'm sorry for needing glasses, but I think I look smart, even if Zachary calls me 4 eyes.
I don't like middle school. I feel like something happened to the people I knew and I don't know who they are any more. The classes and the teachers are okay. I really like the library. It's so big! It's even bigger than our library! I really like the fiction section. Nonfiction just isn't as interesting. I found this book called Castaways of the Flying Dutchman. It's by the same guy who wrote the Redwall books. I didn't think I'd like it because it wasn't about Redwall, but it's actually really cool! They have a treasure hunt! The library has the Harry Potter books too, but they are almost always checked out. I'll get them eventually though.
I don't like it when I'm not allowed to go to the library at lunch time. I don't really like the cafeteria. Nobody really wants to sit with me because they have their own friends. But that's fine. I like it when people leave me alone.
We have to share lockers with people. But I can carry all my stuff with me, so that's fine. They can keep it. It's on the bottom and most of my classes are in Mr. Platt's classroom anyway. I can leave my backpack there.
I hope things are going okay at work. Do you remember when we used to pick you up? Dad would stop at Dairy Queen for ice cream when we were really early, and Izzy and I would have to share a cherry dipped cone. I miss that.
Love, Alice (age 11)
She wasn't supposed to tell you. I didn't want her to. When she said she was calling home, I thought she'd tell dad and that was fine. He didn't say anything about it, and I was okay. I didn't want to worry you.
Why were you crying? I didn't cry about it until you were crying because as scary as it was, as much as I wanted those boys to leave me alone and stop following me, I thought I was okay. And then you came upstairs and you were crying and I didn't know what I did wrong to make you cry like that.
She wasn't supposed to tell you.
Alice (age 12)
I made a friend and she's like me except she can draw. People are mean to her the way they are to me, but it's okay because I can go to Ms. Miller if they are being too mean.
She still wasn't supposed to tell you.
Mr. Green is a nice teacher, too. We got into a discussion about Star Wars in class when we were doing a Socratic seminar and he didn't even stop it. It was even sort of on topic. His units are a little weird though. They are all questions. The first one was Who are we?. I don't know how he wants us to answer that exactly. I think it's one of those things where teachers say that there is no right answer, but there actually is a right answer and you don't get the points if you don't answer correctly.
How are we supposed to figure out who we are anyway?
Sincerely, Alice (age 13)
I wanted to punch someone today. I really wanted to punch a few people today. I didn't, but I didn't know I could be that angry at people. It wasn't even for me. They were laughing because Heather was getting really frustrated and I wanted to throw the stapler at their stupid faces. Does that make me a bad person?
Sometimes I hate it how some people are so perfect. Louisa is really nice and smart and everything, but sometimes I hate her. It's not even her fault either. I'm smart too, right? I have grades almost as good as hers, don't I? So why do I feel so worthless next to her? Why does everyone care about her but forget I even exist?
Why do I feel so guilty for wanting to be noticed too?
Love, Alice (age 14)
Why are boys so stupid?
Love, Alice (age 15)
Sometimes I don't know why I'm a girl. Sometimes I wish I was a boy. Is that normal? But not like the boys I know. I want to be myself, but with less stuff in my chest. That's like a boy, right? I don't mind being a girl, but sometimes I wish I could change. Just for a day, maybe.
Sometimes I still think about what it would be like if magic existed. Or if I had superpowers. I wish I could fly so you and dad wouldn't have to drive me to school and back. And I could fly from class to class. Sometimes I imagine I have wings, like the kids in the Maximum Ride books. Sometimes I imagine it so strongly my shoulders ache. If I could fly, I'd learn to live on my own in the woods so you wouldn't have to take care of me. I'd do yard work and stuff for money, and I'd live underground in a bunker I dug out myself.
I think that would be cool.
Love, Alice (age 16)
I hate the band teachers. I think the feeling is mutual because I feel like they are spitting in my face making an underclassman the section leader this year. At the very least, they are playing favorites. I don't want to do this anymore. I want to hit the teachers in the face with my trombone and stomp out.
We both know I won't do that.
Love, Alice (age 17)
Did I do something wrong?
I thought things were sort of okay. I didn't like that Bella complained about how my sweaty feet stink, but that's why I kept my shoes and socks on until after she went to sleep. And now she's moved out and the dorm room is so empty.
I stopped sleeping on my bed and started sleeping on hers because it's too much effort to clean it off every night. The door is always locked, even when I'm just going to the bathroom and I don't really know anyone except Bella and Abby and I don't know if I should talk to them at all because I think everything might have been my fault. But sometimes the room is too quiet and not even my music will fill it up and I just want a friend but I'm too scared of doing something wrong with them too and I hate that Cody keeps yelling "Put some pants on" at my window as if I'm sitting completely naked at my desk and I don't know how to tell him to stop.
I think Izzy's friends hate me, but I don't have anyone else. Sometimes I think Izzy hates me too.
I had a dream that you died in a car crash and my first thought was "How will I pay for college now?". I hate myself for that. When I woke up, I tried to go see you, but you weren't there, and I was half afraid the dream was real. It wouldn't even be the first time my dreams actually happened.
I don't love you just for college or money or insurance or anything like that. You know that, right? I think I don't say I love you enough. But I remember you said that Izzy visited you every day for long stretches of time and it got in the way of your work. I never wanted to interrupt you or cause you a lot of trouble. When should I visit? You said I was more independent. Is obsessively wondering if visiting would bother you a mark of independence? Did I get my wires crossed somewhere along the line?
How do I not feel empty anymore?
Alice (age 19)
Mollie isn't moving out, but how can a room full of stuff feel so empty?
Alice (age 20)
We have a whole apartment. Why do I feel like the only space I should inhabit is my futon?
Alice (age 21)
Did you know I still think about how, when I was 7, there was a shouting match in the middle of church? I've been pulling away from religion for years, but that was the first thing that did it for me. I never understood what was going on and I realized almost immediately I should have left with Izzy. Maybe that's why she's still okay going to that big church of hers. I went once and almost had a panic attack. I don't know why I'm thinking of it now, but it comes back into my mind every so often, the image of David getting pulled out of the room by his dad while yelling and calling Mr. Lafayette a liar.
Izzy went to see one of the counselors while she could go for free, and I wonder if I should have as well. Sometimes my head feels too full of things and I don't know what to do with it but write or talk. I think I'm so resistant to talking to a counselor because they would suggest things to do about it and that's not what I want. I don't want someone to tell me what to do about anything, I just want to take the things out of my head for a bit like it's a snow globe. I want to shake it up and see what happens and, when I'm done and the snow has settled, to put it back on its shelf and revisit it another day.
Some days I'm not certain I got any older than I was sitting in the auditorium, listening to people shout about what they wanted for the church. Personally, I'm not sure how anyone else left.
Alice (age 23)
I've realized that the thing I want the most in a house isn't space or things. I've been to a lot of other people's houses now, and the best ones are always open, always available and accommodating to guests or whoever needs a place to stay. I've realized that while I have never minded being alone, it is something far different from being lonely.
And I don't want to not be lonely the way other people do things. I don't think I have the right pieces to be able to fall in love with people, and I think I kept messing things up thinking my desire to befriend someone was a crush. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and explain to some people that I admire them more than I ever had the words to say, that I wanted to get to know them and trust them the way I never trusted anyone.
I'm starting to realize that I've never really trusted people. I tell people things, personal things, but then I turn around and act like they don't matter. It's like tearing off armor to show my weak spots and acting like I'm invincible when someone gets too near to something that hurts.
Sometimes I feel like you're the only one I can talk to about these things, like you're the only one who understands who I am when I'm not putting on an act for people. Is that putting too much on you? Should I stop? I like being able to tell you about the things on my mind. I like being able to put together the pieces and see what a mess I've made of myself.
Sometimes I feel like one of those pictures that's a whole bunch of colors and squiggles until you go cross-eyed and tilt your head and squint to see what is supposed to be hidden in there. I don't remember what they're called but looking in a mirror isn't always helpful. Why did people cover up the picture like that anyway? Aren't we enough of a mess already without muddying up the water?
Love, Alice (age 25)
I'm finally okay with the person I see in the mirror. I don't know when it happened, but I think it's been like this for a while now.
I wish I knew when I stopped, because whoever made me feel like that wasn't someone I should have put any trust in. Is it bad I think it was one of my teachers?
I think I understand why you cried when I was 12. I think you knew I hated myself and it hurt to have to hear it from someone else. I think I would have cried, too, if I had been in your place. I should have told you that I wasn't okay before things got that far. Maybe we would have been able to measure my mental state by how many books I went through in a week.
You used to joke all the time about the summer reading program and how everywhere you looked people were telling parents to encourage their kids to read and you wanted to know how to make us stop. There was never going to be a method for it. We were too stubborn to stop something that made us feel good, and I know I threw myself into story after story so I wouldn't have to face actual people. I think I picked up reading as a coping mechanism earlier than most because libraries were always the safest place for me. There's a reason my library card was never replaced, no matter how many times I lost it.
Love, Alice (age 26)
We have different conversations now. I think I like it this way. Even when we're just talking about what we're writing, I feel safe. I'm glad we can finally have real conversations. I don't think I tell you I love you enough, but I'll try to be better about showing that.
With all my love, your daughter, Alice (age 27)
P.S. Happy Mother's Day!