Letter to My Daughter

by Valerie Foote

Dear Girl,
It is thirty years gone
and I am ash.
I may be done but the trees remain
old and forlorn or perhaps still in their prime.
They are standing tall, and fierce if they withstood the winds and snows.
In years gone by, each morning opening the drapes
I greeted them in my efforts to understand and befriend them.
My dear, they hold memories
of cats ripening in the sun,
of the bear, roused by neighborhood dogs, trundling out of his snow-covered den,
smelling the cold air,
and the year they housed a squirrel, a nest of twigs and leaves in the solitary pine tree.
He skittered up and down its trunk,
his chattering waking the trees from their slumber.
They fed the grand Pileated Woodpecker
who marred their beauty with his loud but persistent knocking.
Did they wish be rid of him?
Do they remember the passing crows squabbling on their branches
deciding where next to go?
And they witnessed
the night of the coyotes when our cat was taken.
They may even ponder the look of the stars or the rich smell of spring breezes.
Do they recall us sitting on the deck
sipping coffee or wine as the hour warranted
or the mother-daughter ritual of you braiding my hair
or my latest beau expressing his angst as he wiped the summer’s heat from his face.
And perhaps they were startled by our impassioned drumming in the moonlight?
Strange snippets of the human experience observed.
Did they judge or are they beyond that?
How many years must they stand?
How many memories must they try and store?
They were born with all the wisdom they need.
Love them well, my dear.
They are the air that you breathe.

Valerie Foote comes from a family of writers but pursued art and teaching. She worked for 25 years in the District of Columbia Public Schools teaching English as a Second Language to immigrants from around the world. She now lives in Asheville, North Carolina, and works in a public school kindergarten teaching a young boy with autism. She has always loved her work with children, whom she describes as “honest and excited and full of wonder.”