This One's For You

This column is for you, loyal readers of Minnesota Parent, who have encouraged and inspired us as we patch together this publication month after month on a schedule that's tight and a budget that's tighter. This is for your willingness to put pen to paper and stamp to envelope as you fill our letters section with your enthusiastic support and your intelligent criticism, when I myself have never once in my life followed through with intentions to do the same, even when I've been moved to laughter or tears or rage by a story in a magazine or a newspaper or a journal (some sorry excuse for a writer, I am) and although I'm not proud of this woeful record of nonparticipation, I tell myself, Who has the time?, yet so many of you have made the time whether it was easy or not.

This is for you, for caring about the mundane minutiae that add up to the staggering work of parenthood, for still having the energy, after boiling noodles and chopping vegetables and wiping counters and giving baths and making dental appointments and meeting with teachers and dumping the trash and folding the laundry and brushing your teeth and seeing your face in the mirror and wondering when you got so old and if you'll ever really figure out what you're doing with your life anyway and then reading some bedtime stories or having a discussion or a fight about homework or chores or curfews with a child who's no longer a child and then finally out of plain exhaustion calling the day quits, even though you still haven't written out those checks or watered the plants or mopped the dinner off the kitchen floor, this is for you, for even then having the energy to bother reading our paltry little collection of stories about other parents acting the same part in the same drama, just with different supporting characters, settings, and extenuating circumstances.

This is for you, for not complaining about our informal policy to never waste space in these pages on the unstoppable deluge of articles that beats down on our desks each day, articles promising to save your sanity with ten tips for potty training, or the best toys to buy, buy, buy, or the sure-fire thirty-day program to be the perfect parent, or the list of everything you're doing wrong with your finances, or another secret method to teach your infant to read, or the reasons why all day care is bad or why staying home is always best or why all kids need day care or why stay-at-home moms are depriving their kids, or any other pit-pat simplistic gibberish that reduces the complexities of the work you do and the lives you lead to so much lukewarm sacharrine-laden porridge.

This is for you, for liking or at least accepting or possibly simply overlooking our rough-around-the-edges, zany but 'zine-y countenance, our tendency to betray through our entirely imperfect final product the secret of our birth and rebirth each month, wherein a scraggly batch of stories by assorted parents often operating on not enough sleep and too much caffeine and wildly varying degrees of writing experience are lined up in the dark of night until there are just the right number of words to fill our space but not exceed it, cutting and pasting and rearranging not facts and figures about Clinton and Northwest and terrorists and clones of a dog named Missy, but rather little bits of silken threads from so many worn-out baby blankets, corners of photographs of sons and daughters who rushed in and hit you so hard they knocked the wind out of you, left you weeping alone in the quiet of your own house, random chunks of bread that you baked a long time ago with your own hands, some of it now hard and dry and sharp enough to cut teeth on, these are the details we scramble to save as page after page crumples through the chaos we call editing.

This is for you, for answering our ongoing call for submissions with essays and poems and slice-of-life stories that make us stop answering the phone, or sorting the rest of the mail, or wondering where we left the car keys, for long enough to remember with a shudder the point of it all. This is for you, for putting in print the sorts of secrets that send your souls naked into the street, the sorts of feelings that spread your ribs and leave your heart beating and bloody in the open air, leave you dilated and exposed, vulnerable to yourselves and others. This is for you, for telling the stories a parent can wrap her mind around when she finds herself blank and useless in the middle of the grocery store, or crying in the first light of the morning, stories that sop up the spill of personal alienation seeping across the fabric of our culture, stories that answer our call when we stand at the window on a frigid winter day with our backs to our children and wonder if there's anybody out there who knows what we feel.

This is for you, for psychically harmonizing with hundreds of writers and thousands of readers every time you care about a tale of the way another mom gave birth or what made another dad laugh or the time another mother's child filled her with so much lightness and joy she could not contain herself and she involuntarily transcended her own understanding of human experience. On the other hand, this is for you for every time you resonate with the more mysterious stories we can't resist slipping in now and again about stuff that seems at first glance to be about nothing at all, as random as the contents of a junk drawer: reading in the attic, making macaroni and cheese for lunch, waiting for spring, being tired, scraping crayon wax off the woodwork, buying a lottery ticket. The steady succession of moments, tick-tocking one after the next, drab as dust on first glance, gleaming and oiled with the richness of our lives on the second, or third, or millionth glance years after spring has long passed and the crayons have been lost. This is for your willingness to humor us as we try and fail and try again to honor, if not solve, the mystery of life's defining moments.

So this letter of thanks, then, is for you, for getting out each month to pick up Minnesota Parent, for astounding us with your generous participation, and for enriching our lives and the lives of so many others by your passion for all of our children and our families and the experiences that hurt and heal us. Thank you for sharing your time, your energy, your stories, and yourselves. When two years ago I described in this column my hopes for Minnesota Parent, top on the list was that readers would jump in and make this publication their own through responsive letters and phone calls, through stories and even conversation with family and friends. The whole point was to inspire a dialogue. But I hadn't an idea of whether or not we could really make that happen. It all depended on whether you'd find the time and energy to act on your response to our content--if, in fact, our content elicited your response at all. Had you never answered my call from the window that winter afternoon, if you'd never raised your own voices, surely I'd have lost heart by now. But raise your voices you did, and the chorus is pure euphony.

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