Photo: Courtesy of Leigh NewmanBy Leigh Newman
1. Regarding the broken Art Deco hand mirror in the bathroom: I broke it. I apologize. There were only two of us living in our house, you and me. Who did I think I was fooling with that ghost story?
2. I too now say "you're plucking my nerves" to my children, especially when they are having water-splashing contests in the kitchen-right next to my cell phone.
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3. Remember the bag of plums? I was 7. You were 35. You bet me a bag of plums that you could make the green traffic light. You made the light; I cried and then refused to buy you the plums. Then, for the next 32 years, I still refused to buy you the plums. Well, I owe you the plums. Further, I had a tendency as a child and young person to remain entrenched in ridiculous, no-win positions. This is not a happy way to live. You tried to tell me. I didn't listen.
4. About the drinking. It's behind us. Please, please forgive yourself.
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5. The dog. I promised I would walk the dog. Over and over again, I promised I would walk the dog. I meant it at the time-but I didn't do it. You worked 60 hours a week to support us. I understand now why you had to give the dog away.
6. I secretly loved it when you hung your head out the car window and shouted "to thine own self be true!" in front of all the other kids on the playground. Shakespeare is the voice of life.
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7. The wisest thing you ever did was to ignore me when I stayed out late as a teenager and came home smelling like Camel Lights, boys and very berry wine coolers. Like yourself, I am a bit of a rule breaker-but when there are no rules, it takes the fun out of self-destruction.
8. Your hair is blond. (Clearly, it is not blond.) But I now understand why I should go along with your little white lies, because I am getting older too, and I know why we all need them. By the way, my bottom is toned.
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9. As for Madame Butterfly, to this day, I am ashamed. You bought me tickets to the most moving opera in the world. We went. We watched. We wept. The bell rang for intermission. You swept us off to dinner in the exquisite restaurant at Lincoln Center. I objected on the grounds it was too touristy. I felt it was akin to a bus ride in Paris. I was a fool! Worse, I was pretentious. That whole period-1991 to 1998-I was so afraid of being a country bumpkin that I was a big fat boob.
10. You made me be friends with "Barbara Bourbot" because she didn't have any friends. You made me into a kinder person.
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11. Your purple-and-white-striped tube top, the one you used to wear while sunbathing in the front yard while I cringed...I would like it now, if you don't want it anymore-please? I realize you want to give me the lovely things you never got as a child. But it reminds me of you more than a strand of pearls or a silver comb-and-brush set. I can't help it.
12. When you wonder out loud if life would have been easier if you had stayed with my father, or if you should have had a second child because it's too hard to be a single mom of an only daughter-it's too much work; there's too little outside perspective; there's too much intimacy, so much so that our thoughts and glances and combined history tell us more than words will ever be capable of-you are probably right. It would have been easier. We would have fought less. We would have ended up as different people. Which would have been the greatest loss of my life. I like who we are, together and separately, and most of all when we are laughing side by side at old episodes of I Love Lucy, eating potato chips late at night.
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