Dear 17 year old Suzanne,
This is a hard letter to write. Hard because I know how much pain you’re in. And I know there’s more to come. Much more. I’m so sorry about that.
You know that saying? The one that says, “You have to experience ALL the things in order to be who you are?” Yeah. I have something to say to you about that.
It’s true. But not completely. I want to tell you three things. First? I want to let you know what you could have done without, and ended up exactly where you are. Second, I’ll tell you the things you need to go through… they hurt, but they DO end up helping you. And the last thing I want to tell you is the best. So keep reading. I know you hate it when people tell you what to do. But really, you should read this. The end will make you cry… happy tears.
1) Things you should avoid: (things that don’t help you in the long run…)
- Quit smoking. This will haunt you forever. I mean it. WHY are you doing this?
- Forget about that boy. He will forever be known as “The Foul Boy,” and he does not love you. He can’t love anyone. It will take you years to figure this out. And for those who say the pain he caused made you strong? Not so. You had other things, and other boys who could have served the same purpose. One word. RUN.
- The drugs don’t help. They will never help. You’ll lose your self-respect and it will take years to get it back.
2) Things that you need to go through in order to become YOU. (Sorry, honey…)
- You will drop out of college. Twice. You need time, you need to find yourself. Feeling lost will help you. It’s at our darkest moments... and all that.
- You will have a baby… young. This will terrify you. You won’t have any money or health insurance. So you will have to go on welfare and food stamps and government healthcare. But your baby girl? She’s the light. And you’re a good mother. She gives you a clear path. You see who you want to become every time you look at her. You face your fears so that she won’t have them. This will be the hardest time, but also the softest. I know that doesn’t make sense to you now, but it will.
- You will miss your father. I know you’ve always missed him. Longed for him. But during these years? That ache will grow. Know this: He loves you. He has always loved you. It was never your fault.
- Keep up that weird Tarot and Magic stuff! It comes in handy. Even though everyone thinks you’re pretty odd….
- You and your mom? You go through hard times. Forgive her. Forgive yourself. You love her so much.
- Your Godfather will become the largest support in your world. Love him. Let him in. You will be so happy you did!
3) This is the best part! Things you will do:
When you are 17 (this very year in your life!) you will “meet” your father again. It’ll be hard. When you get off the plane he’ll be there and he won’t recognize you. You have to go to him. You’ve never forgotten his eyes, the way he stands, how he fills up a room. He’ll say “I swear, darlin’, I thought you’d be ten years old when you got off that plane,” He’ll work so hard to let you know how much he’s always loved you, and you’ll believe him.
- You will get married! I know, I know… you swore you never would. But you meet this adorable, stable, man who you fall in love with despite yourself. He’s good to your daughter. And at your wedding, they exchange vows. Also, your father will travel north to be there. With his wife and your brother. Yes, you will have a brother. And man, do you love him.
- You’ll have two more babies. Amazing babies! Little girls. All three will be girls. A coven of your very own.
- You’ll write books! And in those books your characters will be so very lost. Because you are lost, and as you write them home, you’ll find your peace.
- You are clever, and scrappy, and capable. You become a teacher. (I KNOW! Right?) and you love your students. You see your teen self in them. They notice, and you open doors. This is the thing that makes you finally stand up straight.
So, my love… this is you. You then and you now. Eventually all those things you dream about will come true. Your wildest expectations will be met. And you will soar.
One more thing, and this is hard… at 42 you’ll still feel lost. That’s such a hard thing to shake. I don’t think you ever will. But you have these people all around you who feel lost too. And when you find each other? Through the books you write? Magic happens.
I wish we could have liked each other better.
I wish someone had noticed you were really very small and fragile even though your mouth was so freaking big.
I suppose what I am really trying to say is… I’m sorry. I should have taken better care of you. Hold tight. It all comes out in the wash. I promise.
And I love you. I always have. I just didn’t know it.
~The Lost Witch (You, at 42… that rhymes….)
SUZANNE PALMIERI is the author of The Witch of Little Italy and the co-author of the forthcoming I’ll Be Seeing You (as Suzanne Hayes) and her essays have been published online in Life Learning Magazine and Full of Crow: On The Wing edition. She lives with her husband and three daughters in New Haven, Connecticut.