Dear Younger Self,
You were always a curious child. I mean that in a couple of ways. You were curious, as in perplexing, because you didn't think like every other kid on the block or in the classroom. That's because you were curious, as in auto-didactic. Although you weren't very vocal about it, you were the why kid, the how kid. You were the kid who couldn't stand not knowing a thing, and in knowing a thing, you found 27 other things you had to know. You were bright and eager for knowledge. That's why you were allowed to start school when you were four, and that's why you graduated a year younger than most of your classmates.
You were accused of being silly. It was exactly that, too, an accusation. "Oh, you're being silly again." "Stop being so silly." Those who said things like that were idiots and maybe even jealous, or perhaps they were blind and couldn't see what fantastic worlds you were trying to reveal. You weren't silly. Goofy, maybe, but not silly. You were imaginative. Pretending allowed you to dive into places where you couldn't (or wouldn't) otherwise go. You took tiny sparks and built huge fires that lit the night and saved you from darkness. You wrangled thoughts that were too big for your tiny self and put them in an order that made sense to you. How is that silly? Dear girl, that is profound, and mature, and fucking impressive.
You had the ability to feel people's moods before they spoke. Sometimes before they even walked in the room. You had a way of... just knowing. That's not weird and it's nothing to run from. It's a pretty cool gift to have, kiddo. It's called intuition and empathy - not rare gifts, but not all together common either. Hone those and use them. Even though it sometimes feels a little freaky to know what's coming, and sometimes it'll hurt because the weight of what you feel is overwhelming, it'll still help you more than you know. You'll be able to "be there" for people in ways that nobody else can.
You loved to laugh (still do), and you loved to make other people laugh. You liked to entertain, not so much because you wanted the accolades, but because you loved to see people smiling. It's a shame you were told to tone it down, to keep it quiet, to not break out from the rest of the group and let it ring. You had a voice that was true even then. You should have been allowed to stand tall and look 'em all in the eye and sing out.
I remember one beautiful summer day, you were walking home from the neighborhood swimming pool, towel wrapped around your waist, hair dripping water down your back. The sun was shining, the trees were green, and that ubiquitous scent of full-on summer was intoxicating. You were happy and you acknowledged it by singing, "If you're happy and you know it..." All the way home, you sang and clapped and stomped and twirled and whatever else was required to acknowledge your happiness. I'm certain that anybody looking out their windows at the kid dancing and singing her merry way down the street was infected by it. You opened the front door and there was your sister, shaking her head, disapproving, "Oh my god, you're such a dork!" How sad it is that you took seriously the one person whose words you should have brushed off like a pesky mosquito. The world could have used a lot more of your happy singing and clumsy, but sincere dancing.
Back to that unbridled imagination of yours. You don't know it yet, but it's possibly your greatest asset. It will take you everywhere and anywhere. You were making up scenes and stories in your head before you even fully understood that that's what you were doing. You called it, because that's what you were told to call it, "pretending." In truth, it was inventing and creating, and in those things, discovering. Each time you "pretended" you were showing yourself how to understand and cope. You were taking what you had within you and making your world better. Ridiculous? Folly? Impractical? No, child. Intelligence. Gumption. Sophistication.
Remember the time you had the nightmare at Grandma's house? Daddy came to get you and you pressed your chubby little cheek to his rough, whiskery neck, breathing in the scent of cigarettes and coffee and turpentine. Daddy patted your hair, saying, "Shhh... s'okay... Daddy's got you, Punkin...shhh." You've never felt safer than you did in that moment. Nearly 50 years later that moment still shines, because I know now as well as you did back then, that was the real Daddy. That's the Daddy who loved every atom of you and who saw you for the precious girl you were. It's not so surprising that scents of coffee and cigarettes and paint are, to this day, comforting smells.
Here's what's so wonderful, bright, beautiful girl. You're still here. You're still alive and well inside of all this wild imagination and these crazy dreams. You're still the one who delights in the extraordinary of the ordinary day. You still sing. You write. You paint. You play. You laugh. There are probably some people who still don't understand, who still might find you foolish, but this woman you've become has decided that those kind can just go pound sand. You're the one who, every morning, kicks off the covers and belts out (if only inside my mind) the words of Maria von Trapp, "What will this day be like? I wonder..."
I delight in you, little girl. You're my best friend and I love you down to the last atom,
PS Somewhere Over the Rainbow is still our favorite song to sing, but we try not to belt it out while we're on the toilet and our voice is cracking from laryngitis. Well, that's not entirely true. We might just do it, if we're the only one home.