I am on the other side of 35 now and the mother of three awesome children. My son is an amazing person. He is a non-conformist and at times very caring and at other times, he's your stereotypical teenager. He is an artist at heart and I love him fiercely. He is strangely thoughtful and has been this way. At 6 or 7 years old, he surprised me with the questions, “what is love?” and “where does love come from?” Once, right in the middle of his homework assignment he said “Mommy, it must have been hard for you”. Not knowing what he was talking about I said “what are you talking about?” He said “Your mother dying when you were young”. He was wrong. While I am sure my childhood was different than the average person's since you weren't around, I never really dealt with your absence at that age; I began to process it when I was an adult. As a child your death was never something the family spoke about. We just went on living. We moved in with daddy and kept the play button of life on. I went to school, did what was required of me and moved on…until the teenage years. Daddy was a different kind of parent than you were: he favored the strict dad approach and I was very limited in the places I could go. As a result I did a little sneaking around and did some things I probably shouldn't have. But there is nothing I can do about that now. I didn't think I was worse than the average teenager at the time but I certainly wasn't the best. I only had a couple of close friends at the time and I don't know if that was a good or bad thing since she wasn't really the most sympathetic or sensitive person. But she's who I had, and I am grateful for her. Daddy got married to a woman I admire and love very much. She is one of the kindest people I know. She was definitely the motherly type but different than you, which is probably a good thing you know? If she seemed like she was a replacement for you maybe we wouldn't have gotten along. She was a worrier, always worried about other folks having what they need and often neglecting herself. I can't recall one bad experience with her. You were a different kind of mother; I like to think I somewhat take after both of you, you know? You were a creative, a poet who loved music and danced with me and sis all the time. I remember spending nights by granny listening to ‘Lady in Red' on my Walkman, smelling freshly baked bread in her oven. Those were much simpler times. It's been a bit more complicated in my adult life. I miss you most now because I am struggling with being a grown-up. Somehow, I feel like I don't understand what it means to be a woman because you were not here to teach me the rules. I don't know how to balance being a mom and a wife. Heck, I don't even think I am doing the being a mom thing right, and now that I have a teenage step-daughter and my 4 year old, I feel like I may not be preparing them for life as a woman. Sometimes I think that not knowing was an advantage for me but at other times I feel like life would've been easier if I would just follow the rules and conform. Would I want to teach my kids to conform to societal rules? Probably not, but I do think life would be easier if I could find that sweet spot between conforming and doing my own thing…I believe that is where life becomes easier to navigate. Either way, I suck at the balancing act of working full time, (full time and half actually) and being a mother. Not just a mother but a loving mommy that has the energy to play with the kids and clean and cook wholesome foods and not feel like I'm losing my mind doing that and forsaking my own desires to be who I truly am (which is not always kid friendly). I do not believe I am defined by this thing called being a mother and feel profoundly selfish for even having the thought of being something besides that. Realistically, I know you were more than a mother, but I suppose that is all I saw, and you seemed happy that way. Why do I struggle with that? I am most bothered by not being able to ask you for advice. It sucks that I can't sit with you as an adult and have a conversation with you, something I enjoy doing with daddy and my step-mother. It disturbs me that you will never hold any of your grandchildren and they will never know what you smell like (I still remember after all of these years). They will never know the awesome person you are, and they will never truly understand why I am so bummed out every mother's day and every August 28th (yes, I still remember your birthday). I'm not ready to leave my kids, but I am sure looking forward to seeing you again. I just want to talk to you. Take care of yourself. I hope you read this letter. With love, Your daughter.