Flying The Coop: A Story Of Life And Death

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Dear Michael and Caroline,

The day after a recent Christmas, I discovered a trespasser on our terrace. A pigeon. But it was no mere intruder. It was also a captive.

Our terrace is enclosed with a wire-mesh screen. We made this home improvement expressly to keep pigeons out. For years they had visited unannounced, warbling ad nauseum and depositing souvenirs.

But now a scruffy gray pigeon had gotten in. It squeezed through a gap only a few inches wide. And now it was trapped. It tried to get out, flapping its wings, darting high and low.

My first instinct was to save it, though more to rid a nuisance than out of mercy, and I commenced eviction proceedings forthwith.

Unfortunately, I had no pigeon removal experience. I could try to drive the pigeon toward the gap it had entered. Or try to coax it into our living room, adjacent to the terrace, and enable it to fly through its open windows.

So out onto the terrace I stepped, a plastic outdoor table held in front of my torso as a shield. The pigeon saw me moving in and took to the air. It veered over and around me, wheeling right, then left, clearly in a panic. So much for that.

Nor was I now going to risk letting the pigeon into our living room. I imagined it going berserk, smashing mirrors and lamps, even pecking at my skull. Neither was I about to summon our building superintendant or the city health department. I needed a quick, easy solution.

Then I decided to leave the pigeon be. It would starve out there. Eventually it would die.

Now, I was never a friend to the pigeon population. I never fed one, for example. But neither was I an enemy of the species. I never flung a rock at one. Rather, I adopted a United Nations neutrality, wishing pigeons neither well nor ill.

Still, when it came to murder, I had a clean record. So my decision left me feeling guilty, even ashamed. This pigeon had done nothing wrong except gotten trapped by accident.

When you and Mom came home that night, I explained everything.

“So you’re just going to let it die out there?” Caroline asked.

The pigeon perched on the bedroom windowsill and stared at me. The next day the temperature dropped below freezing, and the pigeon huddled shivering under the table. Every few hours it roused itself from stillness to try to liberate itself. Round and round it flew, rustling in a frenzy, hysteria setting in.

Over the next few days, as the pigeon repeated this routine to no avail, I learned to live with my decision. After all, pigeons were technically vermin, in the same class as rats, carrying germs and potential infection. They marred statues and benches and buildings with filthy deposits, serving no productive purpose.

Then, one day, the pigeon was gone. As it faced death, starved and freezing and weak, it somehow turned its entrance into an exit and escaped its prison.

In cheating death, that willful pigeon took me off the hook. It granted me a reprieve from my role as executioner and spared my conscience. It saved its life and taught me a lesson about mine. Oh, I knew what I had done. Make no mistake about that. But I also knew I would never do it again.

If I’m lucky, someday I’ll get a chance to prove it.

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Hooked On Motown: How Your Dad Once Got Funky: part 5

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Dear Michael and Caroline,

In May of 1994, 24 years after the talent show, thanks to the kind of serendipity that might happen but once in a lifetime, an incident brought me full circle back to Motown. I was at Ellis Island, in the Great Hall, attending a dinner ceremony for the Ellis Island Medal Of Honor. An organization called the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations, or NECO, originally formed to recognize and preserve diversity in America, sponsored the event to pay homage to the immigrant experience. Over the years, NECO had conferred its award on hundreds of Americans, including six U.S. presidents and numerous Pulitzer Prize winners, not to mention Bob Hope, Muhammad Ali, Henry Kissinger and Frank Sinatra.

I was on duty there – in a black tux, no less – as a newly hired vice president of Howard J. Rubenstein Associates, the influential New York public relations firm. My job that night was essentially to escort Norman Brokaw, chairman of the William Morris Agency, a client who happened to be an honoree. Brokaw, who had started his career in the agency’s storied mailroom, wound up representing the likes of Marilyn Monroe, whom he reputedly discovered, as well as Barbara Stanwyck and Clint Eastwood.

I ate dinner in my usual anxious state over the vagaries of client satisfaction. My boss, the formidable public relations impresario Howard Rubenstein himself, was on hand making the rounds. Indeed, Howard kept glancing at a seating chart he clutched in his hand and making a beeline to buttonhole whichever bold-face name occupied a given table. It was as vivid a lesson in the art of high-powered networking as I had ever witnessed.

About halfway through dinner I took the liberty of leaving our table to reacquaint myself with the concept of personal freedom and catch a breather taking a stroll around the premises. I turned a corner to go down a long corridor and there, coming toward me, flanked by associates, was none other than Berry Gordy, Jr. I recognized him right away – the baby face that carried a hint of bulldog pugnacity. Now, I could have done what I often do when encountering the well-known by chance and followed the protocol most New Yorkers follow: acted as if he were in fact as mortal as everyone else and just let him be.

But no, no chance. This was Berry Gordy, Jr., a k a Mr. Motown. Berry Gordy, Jr. had founded Motown Records in 1959. Berry Gordy, Jr. had discovered Smokey Robinson and The Miracles. Berry Gordy Jr. had gone on to sign Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Martha and the Vandellas, Stevie Wonder, the Jackson Five and, yes, the mighty Temptations. He was the entrepreneur who had engineered Hitsville, USA, the mastermind behind the music that had kept me high from boyhood on. And now I was in a public place all of 10 feet away from him.

“Hello, Mr. Gordy,” I said with an upbeat lilt, putting my hand out with a smile. “Hello,” he replied, all business, and shook my hand. “You’re responsible for a lot of great music,” I said enthusiastically. “Thank you,” he responded. He, too, now smiled, even bowing his head slightly in courtly acknowledgment and appreciation, almost, I dare say, as if he were hearing such a compliment for the very first time in his life and, accordingly, delighted.

I could have said much more, of course. In fact, you can be sure I wanted to say more. I could have taken another minute to tell Berry Gordy, Jr. about our talent show at Fair Lawn High School back in 1970. And how Larry and Eric and I had, improbably enough, simulated The Temptations performing “Cloud Nine.” And how we had just wanted to be cool, and how I for one had never quite cracked the code for cool. And how it was a peak experience for us, and how we had meant it as a tribute, and how I was supposed to be Eddie Hendricks, by then dead only 18 months, stricken with lung cancer, 30 years of smoking forcing the removal of one of his lungs, that creamy tenor falsetto forever stilled. And how my little solo for some reason drew a big laugh.

I could have told him, too, how deeply I loved the music of Motown, all of it, how much soul music had meant to me and how much it spoke to me and how much I loved to listen to it and, most of all, dance to it, dancing out on our terrace in Forest Hills, Queens and while going up and down the stairwell in our apartment building, getting high on its fumes. I could have told Berry Gordy, Jr. all that.

But somewhere along the line, my infrequently deployed capacity for common sense kicked in, and I thought better of it. I had gotten a privileged opportunity to say my piece and pay my respects to Berry Gordy, Jr., and had therefore alighted briefly on my own version of cloud nine, and realized I should leave it at that. Why push my luck? What I had told him – that he was responsible for a lot of great music — he no doubt already knew. Then again, everything I left unsaid I suspect he somehow already knew, too.

P.S. — Here’s the version of this piece that appeared in The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/01/the-motown-sound-revisited-my-five-minutes-as-a-temptation/266328/

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Hooked On Motown: How Your Dad Once Got Funky: part 4

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Dear Michael and Caroline,

Only years later, as it turned out, would I come to understand certain underlying details about our performance as the Temptations on that night so long ago. For starters, back then we remained quite clueless about the meaning of the lyrics we mouthed to “Cloud Nine.” We had the idea that the song was basically about feeling good. Example: “I’m doing fine/Up here on cloud nine/Listen one more time/I’m doing fine/Up here on cloud nine.”

Eventually, though, someone pointed out to me in passing, and I immediately recognized its truth, that “Cloud Nine” was actually a strong dose of social commentary, a warning about drug addiction, presumably heroin in particular. After all, the song is about a man who left home looking for a job he never found and wound up “depressed and downhearted” and then “took” to cloud nine. That’s where he found himself, all but miraculously, without any responsibility to bear and “riding high” and “free as a bird” and “a million miles from reality,” in a “world of love and harmony.” The song we once naively considered so joyous and celebratory was actually profoundly sad, a cry of ecstatic anguish. And it was this anti-drug message we unwittingly delivered that night to a white suburban audience most likely as ignorant as we. Sometimes, I suppose, you just hear what you want to hear.

Only years later, too, would I see that talent show in any sort of real context. In 1970, race relations in America still qualified as incendiary. We performed our act only two years after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., only four years after the founding of the Black Panthers, and only five years after the signing of the Voting Rights Act into law, the riots in Watts and Newark likewise still fresh in memory. Angela Davis was arrested in 1970. Only that year would the Miss America pageant have its first black contestant. Our country was still right in the thick of the civil rights movement.

Our suburban town of Fair Lawn, New Jersey, 11 miles from the George Washington Bridge that connected us with New York City, was an altogether Caucasian enclave, increasingly made up of mostly of the children of European immigrants — Jews, Italians, Germans, Poles, Czechs – many of whom had migrated from the Bronx and Brooklyn. Virtually no blacks lived there, much less attended our high school. The only black person I knew as a child was a sweet woman named Marie Esposito, our maid, who came to our house once a week by bus from the predominantly black neighboring town of Paterson, just across the Passaic River, to scrub our floors, dust our furniture and babysit me and my sister.

Against this backdrop, then, Larry and Eric and I had performed in our high school talent show pretending to be black entertainers. Why is easy to explain. We three white upper-middle-class Jewish boys suffered then from what could readily be diagnosed as a mild to moderate form of black envy. To us, certain blacks had a certain kind of cool – talked cool, walked cool, acted cool, sang cool, danced cool. And we, too, wanted with all our hearts to be cool. And so dancing to the rhythm and blues of Motown was our humble attempt at cool. More, it was a symbolic act of support and solidarity – it was how we sought, at least within the safe suburban cocoon that we occupied, to get down with the brothers.

An iffy endeavor, to put it charitably, for we had little familiarity with tough times. We had never lived in a cardboard shack without running water in some backwater boondocks. Oh, granted, I occasionally got detention for flicking spitballs in class, and our front lawn might have experienced some crabgrass, and my SAT scores came in below average, and our basement often flooded in a heavy rain. But in terms of struggle, that was about it. We had clean streets and pretty much no crime and good schools and both our parents around for the long haul and fireworks at the municipal pool on the Fourth of July. My idea of The Man, against whom the oppressed back then invariably found themselves pitted, was the junior high school principal who once suspended me from class for a day for talking too much in homeroom.

And yet in retrospect, I realize that our enactment of this mimicry could easily be interpreted, at least on the face of it, as mockery. In that still-volatile racial atmosphere of May, 1970, it’s entirely conceivable that what we had intended as innocent tribute could perhaps be misunderstood as satire, and that certain extreme activists could have seen the stunt we pulled masquerading as The Temptations as downright insulting.

No, you could never have exactly characterized us as crusaders. But we had a general idea of what we were doing that night. We had a kind of case to make. We three white kids fancied ourselves, more or less, as honorary blacks – forerunners, if you will, of the generation of white boy wannabes who would come along about 30 years later, likewise afflicted with a strain of black envy, going all ghetto to propel the musical phenomena that are rap and hiphop.

And maybe that’s why the audience laughed so hard at my little solo turn. Maybe it was because the sight of a skinny white bespectacled upper-middle-class suburban Jewish teenager, complete with frizzy “Jewfro,” my face and dance moves so earnest, looking to channel the spirit of a broken-hearted young black man from the housing projects of the Detroit ghetto, trying so very hard to palm myself off as the most soulful dude the planet had ever known, all while lip-syncing a voice so flamboyantly falsetto, so flamingly, stratospherically castrato – well, maybe it somehow came off as inherently absurd. And yes, utterly laughable. At least that’s one theory anyway.

P.S. – Please see part 5 tomorrow.

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Hooked On Motown: How Your Dad Once Got Funky: part 3

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Dear Michael and Caroline,

I love the music of Motown no less today than I did on that Saturday night 42 years ago. It still speaks to me, maybe more clearly than ever. I’ve never stopped listening to it, more the music than the lyrics, and have never, for that matter, stopped dancing to it. I own an eight-CD set with all the greatest hits, but play those tunes, as a rule, only if I’m already on my feet. I’ll put on the headset of my Sony Walkman, probably among the last people clinically alive who still listens to music on anything other than an IPod, and go onto the terrace of our apartment in Forest Hills, Queens, overlooking the fountain in our courtyard – it could be hottest summer or coldest winter; it makes no difference – and re-enact the same dance moves my friends and I attempted at the talent show.

The music we loved as teenagers tends to stay with us forever. Early enthusiasms seldom dim, certain melodies and rhythms carving a groove in our neural pathways. In that respect, Motown remains for me a kind of cloud nine. For the last 26 years now, I’ve relied on Motown to get me through my exercise routine during New York winters. I listen to Motown tunes as I repeatedly walk up and down the stairwell in our 22-story building, typically for 30 to 60 minutes at a time, my footfall tied to the tempos. I stop on the landings every 10 floors or so, sweating and panting, expressly to dance. On occasion, fellow tenants who are navigating the stairwell purely for transportation purposes will spot me doing my stuff and wonder what’s what and whether to call security. But hey, it’s just me, a harmless bald 60-year-old father of two still getting high on Motown.

P.S. – Please see part 4 tomorrow.

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Hooked On Motown: How Your Dad Once Got Funky: part 2

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Dear Michael and Caroline,

Out we bopped onto the stage in the auditorium of our high school for our big number, then, Larry and Eric and I, strutting out in front of the footlights and hundreds of spectators, our families, friends, neighbors and classmates out there in the dark beyond. And streaming over the public address system came the guitar riff with the wah-wah pedal that signaled the overture of “Cloud Nine.” And for the next three minutes and 27 seconds – that’s how long the song ran – with the curtains now parted and each of us at center stage with microphones in hand, Larry was lead singer David Ruffin, Eric baritone Paul Williams and I Eddie Kendricks, he of the creamy tenor falsetto.

We performed onstage that night just as we had practiced in my bedroom for weeks beforehand. We mouthed the words, our lips in sync to the lyrics of the first stanza – all about a guy raised in the slums, in a one-bedroom shack, along with ten other children, and hardly ever enough food to go around – hard times alien to our affluent suburban experience. To the thrumming bass line, the pounding congas and the blasting horns, we, too, shimmied and sashayed. As we fake-sang – all about the lazy father who “disrespected” his wife and treated his kids “like dirt” – we stepped lively, first forward, then back, then to the left and then to the right. We clapped and swayed our hips and twirled and sliced our hands through the air. We pranced and boogalooed and walked The Temptation Walk, a glide to our stride, always in unison.

Yes, we had the patented Temptations moves down cold, or at least lukewarm. And all along, even though our grasp of hardship in general and poverty in particular was highly suspect – we each occupied our own bedrooms, never lacked for food and had fathers gainfully employed who treated us and our mothers reasonably well – we each nonetheless strove to make like super-cool, bad-ass, dudes from the most hardcore slums. We bobbed our heads peacock-style and bit our lips, keeping it real for the rest of society, as if we somehow now embodied the very essence of Motown soul.

And then, about halfway through, I stepped out in front for my little solo as Eddie Kendricks, co-founder of the Temptations, who arranged most of the vocals. “And every man, every man, has to be free,” I “sang” in an ever-ascending falsetto, the word “free” elongated into four syllables, my hands flung aloft overhead, fingers fluttering, as if in holy-roller, glory-hallelujah prayer. And at that moment, the audience, to a person, exploded in laughter. About thirty seconds later, I stepped forward again to offer the refrain, “I wanna say I love the life I live/And I’m gonna live the life I love,” and laughter again erupted. That laughter, so sudden and so loud, stunned me with its tidal-wave force. I was unsure what to make of it.

Someone else won the talent show, though I forget who or why, perhaps conveniently so. No matter. Our routine had come off without a hitch. For those three minutes, we three performed with a sense of control, of owning the night, such as we’d never felt before. It was ours, that moment, all ours. Our appearance mimicking the legendary Temptations, the coolest of the cool, brought another bonus, too, and turned us briefly into the talk of the school. Classmates came over to us in the hallways to compliment us, at least for the next week or so.Do your solo again, some urged me. I had finally verified my longstanding suspicion, once and for all, that I, too, had soul.

P.S. – Please see part 3 tomorrow.

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Hooked On Motown: How Your Dad Once Got Funky

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Dear Michael and Caroline,

On a Saturday night in May of 1970, my friends Larry and Eric and I, each of us then 17 years old, performed in the annual talent show of Fair Lawn High School in Bergen County, New Jersey. We chose to do an act that came naturally to us. We three upper-middle-class Jewish white boys, just months away from going off to college, impersonated the Temptations, the all-black Motown musical group, lip-syncing the lyrics in our rendition of the now-classic song “Cloud Nine.”

We had practiced our routine for weeks in my shag-carpeted bedroom, its walls then decorated with large posters of Raquel Welch, Sophia Loren, Humphrey Bogart and Paul Newman, in the post-WWII split-level colonial house that I shared, albeit grudgingly, with my parents and sister. We would play the album that contained “Cloud Nine” again and again on my Panasonic turntable as we choreographed our dance moves. Larry took the lead, deciding who would play which member of the Temps and how long we would rehearse and even the steps we would do. Eric and I, much his inferiors both athletically and academically and glad simply to be aboard for this ambitious musical enterprise, complied readily with his every command.

Though the three of us had markedly different personalities – Larry serious to the point of driven, Eric easygoing bordering on lax and I somewhere in between – we had in common something powerful, just a notch below our diehard habit of playing pickup basketball. What brought us together to practice in my bedroom for hours on end for our high school talent show was our love of soul music, and most particularly the soul music that came out of the justly fabled locale known as Motown.

Oh, we loved other kinds of music, too – the Beatles and The Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan. But soul music came equipped with a unique agenda. For as much as we loved listening to it, singing along to it, even daydreaming to it, most of all, we loved dancing to it. And the soul music from Motown Records, rhythm and blues tinged with gospel, made us want to dance as nothing ever had before.

By then we’d already known about Motown for a few years, of course. We had bought all the records, seen its stars on “Ed Sullivan” and “American Bandstand,” danced to its tunes at all our school dances, and that special sound had long since seeped under our skin. Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, The Supremes, The Four Tops, Martha and the Vandellas, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and the Pips, the Isley Brothers, Junior Walker and The All-Stars, Marvin Gaye and his heavenly honeyed wail – it spoke to us on a level all but molecular. “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me,” “Baby, I Need Your Loving,” “Dancing In The Street,” “Please Mr. Postman,” “Reach Out, I’ll Be There,” “I Second That Emotion,” “Love Child,” For Once In My Life,” “Never Can Say Goodbye” – such tunes from the Motown catalogue mainlined themselves into our bloodstreams.

But perched at the peak of the Motown hierarchy, hard as it was for us back then to pick favorites, were the mighty Temptations. The five young men from Detroit who made up the group debuted in 1962 and broke through in 1964 with “The Way You Do The Things You Do.” Along came other hits – “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep,” “Get Ready” and “My Girl.” Motown_images_the_temptations_one“Cloud Nine” had come out as a single in 1968, the Temps venturing away from romantic ballads and into what came to be called psychedelic soul, landing Motown its first Grammy Award for Best Rhythm and Blues Group performance. More than anything, we loved how the Temptations danced, how they shimmied and sashayed, perfecting a signature move known as “The Temptation Walk.” Eventually, over 25 years, with no fewer than 43 top 10 hits, the Temptations would evolve, despite some musical chairs among its members, into the most successful rhythm and blues group of all time.

P.S. – Please see part 2 tomorrow.

Guest Columnist Brenda Greenberg: Small Towns, Big Memories

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Brenda Greenberg lives in Toronto with her husband, Rob Wagman, an eye surgeon; her son Jake, 22, a recent Dean’s Honor list graduate of Queens University in Kingston Ontario; and a crazy mini Aussie shepherd puppy named Waldo. She is a veteran television writer and producer.

Dear Jake,

This fall, as we drove north to close our cottage for the season, you stared out the window, and ever the sophisticated city kid, you asked, “What do people in these small towns do?”

Quite a question, that.

And having grown up in the small town of Fair Lawn, New Jersey, I asked myself a question, too. “What did we do?”

Instantly my memories came flooding back.

We did many of the same things typical kids everywhere did. We hung out at each other’s houses, went to proms, dances, and holiday parades. My favorite was the Memorial Day parade because as a girl scout I got to participate. There was something fun about marching down the street and waving to people I knew (my first experience as a celebrity).

As teens, we sneaked into New York City to see concerts in Central Park, Carnegie Hall and the Fillmore East. We hung out in Greenwich Village and ate at trendy restaurants trying to look cool — look, if possible, like anything but the suburban kids we so obviously were. I loved my adventures with friends in the city. But always felt a sense of relief when we stepped off the bus, back safe on our hometown turf.

We had a circle of friends that constantly expanded and contracted, with a core group always intact.Together, my friends and I shared so many firsts: first kisses, first booze, first cigarettes and first…well, let’s leave it at that. We had no idea at the time that our shared adventures would build bonds that would last a lifetime.

Now we live in a different country, (America’s best friend to the north), and I could easily feel lonely and removed from those friends. Thanks to social media I have stayed connected, and also reconnected, with so many old friends from high school. It gives me a sense of a “larger family” and warms my heart to hear about what’s going on in my high school pal’s lives.

This past year you graduated from college (or “university,” as they say here in Canada) and I’m happy to see that you, too, are keeping in touch with many of your friends from home; Skyping with a buddy in Hong Kong, sharing a birthday dinner with another and lending support to friends in need.

I’m proud of you, son, and hope you’ll continue to “make new friends, but keep the old.” If you’re unfamiliar with the ditty that gave us that line, I’ll be happy to sing it to you any time.

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Dispatches: True Confessions: Part 3

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We’ve all got something to admit that’s never going to win any beauty contests. Yet dig down deep inside ourselves we do.

A mother who chose to remain anonymous, a domestic abuse survivor, wrote a letter to her “missing child,” a son whose father, her former husband, left home, only to return six years ago, take the boy, then a teenager, and never bring him back. The son lives in the same town as his mother, and she has occasionally “glimpsed him from afar.” But she stays away from him, apparently because his father may be a threat to his and her safety. “It is so hard to choose,” she says, “between seeing him (her son) and keeping us all safe.” In her anguish over losing all contact with her son, she faults herself for being “deficient and powerless” as a mother. “What a failure I sometimes feel myself to be . . . It is the price I pay for you and us to have peace in our lives.” http://www.mamamia.com.au/social/a-letter-to-my-missing-child/

A mother of four and grandmother of nine who chose to remain anonymous wrote a letter to her grandson asking for an “appointment.” She seeks to schedule a private meeting free of distractions because, she says, “somehow I lost you.” Yes, they still see each other. Yes, they enjoy what little time they spend together. But, she says, “for me there is something missing.” She wants more of him – to know what he’s reading, how he feels about life, who his best friends are. “Grant me this hearing, young man,” she implores. If he does, she promises, she’ll go home “content with fleeting hugs and intermittent text messages.” http://alettertomychildren.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/2074/

A mother of three from Baton Rouge, Louisiana who chose to remain anonymous wrote a letter to her four-year-old son Maddox about how she expected never to be able to have children. First, she was diagnosed at age 17 with endometriosis — then, while pregnant, with cervical cancer. That second discovery came in her first visit to a physician to check on her fetus. “By this point,” she writes to her child, “you had already saved my life.” As it turned out, the act of birth evidently rid her of all her cancer cells. Then she learned that her son has autism. Here she declares, as if in prayer, her hopes for his future. letters

Dispatches: True Confessions: Part 2

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We’ve all got something to admit that’s never going to win any beauty contests. Yet dig down deep inside ourselves we do.

Jessica T, a mother of two and photographer in Utah, wrote a letter to her son Sam shortly after his fifth birthday to admit she’s having a tough time accepting the milestone. To her it means he’s no longer a baby and growing independent and now needs her less. “I struggled because as your mom I want you to NEED me for the rest of your life,” she tells him. Even so, she’s prepared to put her son first. She looks forward to his starting kindergarten, and to teaching him to tie his shoelaces and to ride a bicycle without training wheels. She’s excited about the prospect of watching him make friends and excel at baseball and “finding your place among your peers.” http://adayinthelifeofatomlin.blogspot.com/p/letters-to-my-children.html

Ajay Rochester, a single mother and actress in Australia, wrote a letter to her 12-year-old son, Kai, because they argued about money just before he went away to a camp for a month. Ajay squarely addresses money struggles as a source of family friction, specifically her lack of it and his desire to have more of it to spend. She apologizes to him for the tight squeeze, but also pleads with him for understanding and cooperation. “I am the only person who looks after you,” she tells him. “I’m far from perfect, but I do my best.” As she tries to gain some measure of control over her life and his through this letter, she reveals her anger, her shame, her frustration and her disappointment – in herself as well as in him. She was so sad after the argument that she cried. She admits making “many mistakes” in her life, such as dropping out of school. Ajay also shares details about her “horrible childhood” – how her mother beat her up every day and her father screamed at both every night. http://findingmymojo.com/heartbreaking-hopeful-letter-my-son/

P.S. – Please see part 3 tomorrow.

Dispatches: True Confessions

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We’ve all got something to admit that’s never going to win any beauty contests. Yet dig down deep inside ourselves we do. That’s what the following three mothers have done.

A mother who chose to remain anonymous wrote a letter to her newborn son revealing a detail mothers rarely if ever reveal to a child – that she and his father had no intention of her getting pregnant with him. Yes, they wanted kids, but just later on. Still, she has no regrets. “Within moments of seeing you for the first time,” she writes, “I loved you more than I have ever loved anyone on this earth.” http://firsttimebabybumps.blogspot.com/2012/06/letters-to-my-son.html

Another mother who stays anonymous wrote a letter to her one-month-old son, Griffin, her third child, likewise acknowledging that the pregnancy was unplanned. Originally, she asked herself what she had gotten herself into. She even “threw a tantrum when that positive line showed up on that pregnancy stick.” Now she feels drastically otherwise – elated, in fact. “I’ve spent hours holding, kissing and admiring every pore,” she writes. She calls herself “utterly honored and amazed” to have received this “perfect gift.” http://myuncensoredbrain.wordpress.com/tag/griffin/

Amanda of Nashville, Tennessee wrote a letter to her three children to express her wish for God to restore in her “the full joy of being a mother.” As much as she adores her kids and feels honored to be a mother, she admits to being selfish and considers herself “broken.” “I will still mess up and mess up big,” she writes.” She longs to love her children well “in this crash course in love called family.” Ultimately, she admits she needs Jesus. “My love for Jesus is bigger than my love for you,” she declares. Now she faces the dilemma of somehow reconciling what she sees as conflicting forces. http://life-edited.blogspot.com/2012/05/confession-praise-letter-to-my-children.html

P.S. – Please see part 2 tomorrow.