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To my fans who are parents, I'd like to express to you that I have not always had an easy time. I was a single parent for many years, consumed with responsibility. I will share with you this letter that I wrote to my daughter ten years ago at a very difficult time in our lives. If you are a parent, you'll know where I'm coming from. My main goal in life is to be a good parent. It ain't easy. Get the tissues out.
February 14, 1998
My Darling Alia:
Today, I am hoping you are having a fine time staying over at Molly's house and that you also have fun at the craft show. While you were gone I opened my Valentines' Day card from you. I want to thank you for the lovely note you wrote inside. Your words, compassion and understanding went straight to my heart.
There are no words that can really express the love I have for you. At the tender and troubled age of thirteen, you are my hero. I remember and relive every event of your life from the first day I looked at you up to today without forgetting or losing an image. It seems I can remember every event we shared. After you were born, while in the hospital, I couldn't sleep without you. The nurse rolled you into my room and left the bassinet by my bed. As soon as she left, I scooped you out and placed you in my arms. I almost felt like a criminal who had stolen something and gotten away with it. But I had not stolen anything. Instead I had been robbed. You had stolen my heart on August 13, 1984. It was on that day we began "snuggling up" together.
You've become a pleasure and a treasure over the past thirteen years. You are my confidant and best friend. We became each other's nurses during those times of flu, stomach viruses, ear infections, headaches and whatever common ailments we came down with.
I have never been more proud of the person you have become. I am amazed at your kindness and generosity. I love the softness of your voice and the way you stroke my face when I am in trouble with fear and worrying about how I am going to solve a problem. I love the way you turn over at night in your sleep and reach for my hand placing yours inside it, squeezing mine for a moment just to let me know you've got it. I love the way you kiss my forehead when you find me asleep in my bed with the TV going and the lights on. I adore the way you cover me up to shield my body from the cold. I love the way you talk in your sleep. You say "I love you, Mom."
I love the way we fight. We never hit below the belt. I love the way you tell me off when you feel you are right. And when I realize you are and I have lost, I respond with "I hate you" and you say "I hate you too." Then we look at each other and explode with laughter while we hug and kiss each other.
I love it when I come to your school to pick you up and you come running down the hall to greet me, drop your book bag and hug me saying "Hey Mom, how was your day? I love you." At age thirteen, that is truly a blessing because a lot of teenagers at that age can't stand their parents.
I love the way we look each other over when we are getting ready to go somewhere special to make sure everything is right. I love the way we check our lipsticks together to make sure we didn't go outside the lines of our lips.
I love the way we fight about money when we have very little. I hand it to you for what you need and you give it back to me for what I need. Then we pass it back and forth getting angry at each other until I step in and say "Dammit, I'm the Mom and I say you take this money! Come on, let's go. Get out of my house."
I loved it when you tried to borrow five hundred dollars from Aunt Jackie when you were ten years old so you could make me up a "pamper basket" filled with all the things I loved and needed for Mother's Day. You are so extravagant. (Incidentally, the hundred and twenty five dollars that you ended up borrowing actually came from me and you don't owe Aunt Jackie any money when you graduate from college.)
I love the way you worried about the kids in the hospital when you spent two weeks there. Even though you were in pain, you managed to go room to room to find the ones who were worse off than you and chat with them or offer them some assistance. It made me proud when you were in too much pain to go and check on them yourself, so you sent me.
I respect you for accepting your Crohn's Disease. I admire the way you never complained and looked to each new day with a positive feeling that maybe this would be a better day. I knew your pain, I felt it. I knew how frightened you were of the surgeries, needles, examinations and tests. I knew you missed being able to go to school and see your teachers and friends. I watched you lay almost lifeless so many days and nights. I knew your embarrassment when I had to clean you up.
I understand your pride. I know your dreams for the future. We've gone over them a hundred times. We mapped out the plan and we set the stage. Don't you ever believe that Crohn's disease dimmed the lights or shut them out completely because Broadway ain't seen nothin' yet until you go singing and dancing across the stage.
I love the way you comfort me when I get sad or cry about the cold world. Thank you for holding me when I wept for Ennis Cosby and his unfulfilled dreams and for his family who would never enjoy his smile or embrace again. When my heart ached for Princess Diana and her boys, I did not think I would make it through that Labor Day Weekend. There are many nights that I still wake up worried about how her boys are adjusting. There are many days I drive in my car and my heart goes out to Ryan White and his family, Selena and all who have suffered, been abused and left us too soon.
I am proud of you. I am proud that you are strong. That you take it on the chin many times and accept blow after blow and keep going. You are my rock. I'm proud when people from everywhere compliment me after they have spent a few minutes with you and shared pleasantries with you. I am proud when they say to me "She is a great kid" "She is a nice young lady" "Oh, she speaks so well." I am proud when you are introduced to a person that you extend your hand to shake theirs. In thirteen years I have gotten two complaints about you. (1) You sang too much at Hillary's party in 1995 and (2) you moved some chairs around in a room at the school in third grade.
I have to confess that long after you stopped watching Sesame Street, I kept watching it.
I do not care if you are mad at me about your dog Cain. I could not take another minute of his howling and crapping all over my house so I had to find him another home. So, when you grow up and get your own house, you work hard and clean it all up and go and get a dog like Cain and move him in. Just put me in a home when you do.
Thank you for finally learning to pick your underwear up off the bathroom floor.
Please buy another pair of leopard sunglasses. You look so cool in them.
I love it when you tease me and start talking in Ebonics and scare me to death and then make me laugh.
I really hate it when you try to hold me down and blow in my navel and make that weird noise. You think it is funny. It makes me want to kill you!
Thank you for making a deal with me not to use profanity even though it is the "cool" thing to do in school. Thank you for helping me to raise a lady.
Thank you for understanding when things are tough and cash does not flow so readily.
Thank you for making adjustments and for offering to cut down and for sharing whatever you may have.
Thank you for offering to adopt children when you grow up so that I may have a grandchild without risking your health. Thank you for not naming it some weird name that I will probably take you to court about. (And I will do it). I hope you were joking about those names.
Thank you for the excellent grades you bring home to me and for the effort you put into your school work.
Thank you for your ambition, your dreams, and your courage.
Thank you for loving sisters Sheila and Lesley and father Wendell anyway and for keeping them in your prayers even though they appear to be gone from your world.
Thank you for hanging in there and keeping a broken heart warm with pleasant memories when "it just ain't fair."
Thank you for your encouragement to me about attending college for the first time at age forty four and for offering to help me with my studies. Thank you for having faith in me. Thank you for letting me know when I am wrong, helping me to see things I may be overlooking, helping me to find my keys, learning the laws of "what goes around comes around," you reap what you sow" and" do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
Thank you for giving me the challenges of raising the wonderful and well rounded person that you are in such a sometimes cold world. Thank you for accepting situations my decisions when I have to put my foot down.
Thank you for not disrespecting me and/or abusing me verbally or physically.
Thank you for knowing how to treat another human being. That has impressed me so much with you. I am exceptionally proud of you for that.
Alia, I truly love your heart.
I am glad you have the wisdom to know that God does not close a door without opening a window, so trust him always. Know that Natalie and Dani, Nekki, Jimmy and Solomon are the angels God provided you with to take care of you while he is so busy and I am away from you. It should not be hard for you to figure out why you have these people. And when roads get too rough and things get too tough, He Himself will step in and iron things out. Believe me, He will. And you'll know He's been there.
Thank you for always remember to say "please" and "thank you." Thank you also for knowing when to say "No thank you."
Thank you for holding me and consoling me when people have wounded me with their tongues or their actions. Thank you for placing my head on your chest and inviting me to cry.
Thank you for never embarrassing me in public. In other words, thank you for making me able to rely on your behavior.
You are always polite, I am proud of that.
Always try to use good judgment, be honest and keep your word.
Alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, lying, cheating and stealing: Ring the judgment bell before going in.
Always remember that nothing that happens in this world is a coincidence. There is just so such thing. Whatever happens was meant to be and while some things appear not to happen for the best, it turns out for the best in the end.
Remember prayer, remember share, remember hug, and remember care.
Remember, no matter how great you become, no matter how much money you make, how big your house is or how fancy the car you drive, it means nothing if you have no integrity, scruples, or character. It means nothing if you do not know how to treat another human being. Always try, Alia, to do the right thing, give people the benefit of the doubt, and put yourself in their place. However, know where to draw the line.
Please never forget our talk regarding the people who will be sexually "off limits" to you throughout your lifetime. Be respectful of your spouse, parents, siblings, relatives, best friends, neighbor's spouses, husbands and married people. "Never crap where you eat" means the boss and your co-workers are off limits too. If you fall in love with someone you work for or with, somebody needs to get another job. You not only want to be spiritually sound in your existence, you want to be morally solid.
It is important that I thank you for the trust you have placed in me. This allows you to come to me with all of your fears and problems. This allows us to communicate. Trust is the glue of a relationship. I have always been grateful that you and I can come to each other to discuss any problem or subject. I am also thankful that we have learned to allow ourselves to disagree without becoming angry with one another.
I want to share this last thing with you since we have mentioned coincidences. It's funny how things happen. I named you after the champ, Muhammad Ali. It's amazing, your ending up in his daughter May-May's arms a few times at our friends Denise and Robb Murray. I had never known anyone in Ali's family and hadn't known Denise and Robb when I was pregnant with you. When you were two years old, May-May came to stay with Robb and Denise. While raising you over these years, I've always felt like I was grooming you for something great. I can't quite explain it. But I always said I felt like I was preparing someone to be the heavyweight champion of the world because I had so many areas to 'firm up" and try to perfect. This parenting thing is the hardest job I will ever have. It takes commitment, time, energy, imagination, patience, sacrifice and sometimes pure sweat. And, it takes a lot of love, baby.
Everyone associated with you has been able to see that you are indeed already a heavyweight and my job is nowhere near complete.
It is my pleasure to be part of you. I am very fortunate to have you for a daughter and a friend.
HAPPY VALENTINES DAY
I LOVE YOU MADLY