Deep Devotion

Last April, Minnesota Parent invited readers to participate in an essay contest by expressing their devotion to their children in the form of a "love letter." Reading your essays made us remember why we don't really like these competitions--every one of your letters was touching, heartfelt, and sweet. But since we promised some prizes, we had to finally stop dragging our feet and name some winners.

Rachel Voorhees of Cedar, Minnesota, won first place with her beautiful letter to her three-year-old son, Josiah:

Dear Josiah,

When you were under my heart, curled up like a speckled turtle's egg in the sand, I used to rock in my bed shedding tears to a song by Fleetwood Mac. It had words like this: "Climbed a mountain and turned around. . . . saw my reflection in the snow covered hills, landslide coming down. . . . Children get older, I'm getting older too. . . . So take this love, take it down. . . ."

Pregnancy was like climbing a snow-covered mountain. Up from my youth, over the peak, and to the other side, where I would be a full-time mom.

When I was pregnant, time was the ball that stretched inch by inch out of my waistline. I used to waddle places, Josiah. I waddled, ate lettuce, and prayed; I prayed with my whole self wadded up and focused like a flashlight through a keyhole. I aimed to put my whole self, hung with fireflies and Christmas lights, out where the Great Guy in the Sky (whom I prefer to call Jah), would notice me. I prayed like an arrow from the bow, that you would be easy. Easy enough to walk with me in life with my mistakes just bouncing off of you like ping-pong balls. And you are. Easy.

You listen. When I say quietly, "It's time to go home for dinner," you often take my hand and lead me down the gravel and dust road home. You were born with a patience which you spread out under you like a tablecloth wherever you go.

I go too fast in life. I consider dinner during lunch. For me, going slow is like losing grip on a train I'm attempting to jump. But for you, going slow is like a ladle of molasses and maybe it's better . . . to just wait for the train to stop and let you on.

No matter how much I try to change and be a better mom, Josiah, I will probably be the same me at the root. We all have our roots. You were an entire spirit before you came across me and scuttled into my womb like a turtle. There you slept, all the while I was devouring pizzas and swaying like a weeble-wobble to Stevie Wonder's "I Wish," and "Guava Jam," by Bob Marley. I wanted to teach you what music was; and you came out half-stepping, twirling like a cheerleader's baton on the toss and mimicking the call of the morning dove.

One thing I can tell you, Cy, is that we are all angels and snakes. We are the caves and the starlight at once. We are the boat and the undertow, the lightning and the rain. But we can choose ourselves out of the tornadoes and stillness. We can squeeze our eyes shut and crunch our eyebrows together and shine like a one-hundred-watt light bulb. We can shine and fit together like puzzle pieces in a 3-D vibrating landscape. You and I are in this world. I know we can.

I pray for you to have peace like a stone resting at the bottom of the lake of you. I pray that stone to guide you like a compass as your feet wind on cobblestone and concrete, into canyons and out the other side. I pray you will never outgrow your little turtle shell. Use that shell like a shield, son, to protect your soft underneath.

Your small song rings out beside me now. You are three years out of the belly and balanced like a trapeze artist on the thin beam of today. Your voice and limbs reach out like spaghetti noodles, your heart and mind cover more ground every day. You are expanding like a nova star. I pray I will never dent your will like a hammer on copper. I pray I will never stifle your voice like the lid on a frying pan. I want your body and voice to be your own. I want you to seek heaven and have your prayers answered, just as mine were answered with you.


Mommy Rachel

Second place winner
Candia Lea Cole
Mahtomedi, MN

Dear Bohdan,

It has been fifteen years since I marveled at the sight of your ten fingers and toes for the very first time. Fifteen years...since I gazed into your stellar eyes and reveled in your "wakefulness." You and I shared a once in a lifetime "birth mission" together. You were the 'starship' vehicle that guided me from the fertile fields of young womanhood-to the lush, deep, interior of my maternal landscape. You were my link to nature and the cosmos, from which my sacred connection to all living things grew. I, on the other hand, was the 'mothership' for your emergence into the world. I provided you with 'rocket fuel' and shelter for nine months, and envisioned your essence floating inside of me-like 'Sputnick,' forever.

When I look at you today, I see a colorful collage of your ever changing self. I see a bright and curious baby, a lively and good-natured boy-and a sensitive, down-to-earth young man. Sometimes, you remind me of a wide-eyed, lean-legged buck, who makes its trek through the wilderness of life, with innocence, sensitivity, and caution. Other times, I see in you an eagle-whose keen senses and broad wingspan allow it to fly higher and farther than birds of a meeker destiny. Most of all, I see an individual who celebrates life. You are a person who notices the small creatures that make their home under rocks. You sense the gentle and fierce spirits that live in the wind-and you respect them.

When I dreamed about your future, dear son, I feel my heart fill with trust, and my soul fill with love. Like every mother, I pray for your safety, your happiness, and your success in life. But, what I want you to know about your future, lives in this very moment. It lives within the master blueprint of your being-just as the freedom that belongs to the butterfly, lives within its pupae, cocoon, and wings.

Together, with your creator, you have already designed your soul's destiny. Your job is simply to follow where your spirit leads you, without hesitation. Let the people, places, events, and opportunities along your path in life, serve as teachers and guides. Give thanks for the days that are filled with sunshine, as well the days that bring clouds or storms. You will succeed beyond earthly measure if you simply grow the bonds between your body, mind, and soul.

I love you!

Third place winner
Dan Hovland
Upsala, MN

Dear kids,

Trying to put my feelings for my children on a single sheet of paper is like trying to catch a waterfall in a bucket-it's overwhelming. So many many memories...

From Alicia's big brown eyes staring out at her new world in the delivery room to Carrie's soft hand, squeezing my arm on our walk down the aisle to her future husband. And three boys in between those "bookend" girls. Chad, so sharp, so adventurous. Shawn, the friendly guy who likes sports. Seth, bright and independent.

We've had so many great times together as a family. We've played and worked, we've dreamed and traveled, we've fought and we've hugged.

When your mom and I began our roles as parents we had only the slightest realization of what we were getting into. But we were committed to each other and we became committed to each of you as you came along.

Watching you all grow into adulthood has been a great source of pride for us. It sounds like such a staged comment but it is so true. Over the years we have encouraged all of you to expand your skills and become more independent. We have watched your efforts to stretch your wings at school and church, in sports and music, with friends and family. With those ever-growing wings has come the realization, though, that we are raising you up to let you go.

As we release you, one by one, we remember bits and pieces of years of togetherness; snapshots of memories that flow like the waterfall. We reflect and we pray that we will always stay close no matter how far apart we are.

Love, Dad

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