Forgotten Art: Meadow – Kaitlin 3

A reply to: A letter from Kaitlin


Dear Kaitlin,

I’m sorry it’s taken me a little while to write back. You see, there was something in your last letter that I wasn’t sure how–or even if–to respond to.

Maybe it’s just coincidence and maybe there’s nothing to it.

You see, I appreciate you and our correspondence so much. And I don’t want to put it in jeopardy by bringing up something I shouldn’t. But even more, I don’t want to endanger it–or you–by not bringing up something if I should. So, I’ve decided to mention it, even if it’s awkward or uncomfortable.

I remember reading in your profile that you were trying to stay “under the radar” so your husband can’t find you.

Please know that I keep everything you write confidential. I mean, I do that with all my pen pals. My uncle and my brother know I have pen pals, but I haven’t told them any of your names or anything that has been expressed in your letters. Believe me, I honor the confidentiality of the pen-pal relationship! No one in my life knows who I’m corresponding with except the person I write to.

I felt it was important to tell you that before I go on.

My brother Norman doesn’t hold the same respect for confidentiality. When he saw how much my uncle and I were enjoying the pen pal project, he decided to join. I try to discourage him from talking about the letters he gets and writes. But if you knew my brother, you’d know that trying to keep him from talking is like trying to dissuade the Santa Ana winds from blowing in September.

He’s a big talker.

The thing is. Well, the thing is this: you wrote that your husband’s name was Newt.

Newt is the name of one of my brother’s pen pals.

It’s not a very common name, is it?

Norman says that Newt is his “relationship coach.” He’s teaching him how to “make a move” on his best friend, Ira. (Ira’s a woman–a friend of mine, actually.)

I guess it’s not all bad for Norman, since Newt’s coaching gave him enough confidence to ask Ira and her daughter to move in with him. They were living at a shelter. I guess they had some hardship, and there’s no dad in the picture right now. Ira’s got a great attitude so I’m hoping now that she and her daughter have a save place to live, they’ll bounce back.

But for you! Isn’t it a weird coincidence that your husband would be writing to my brother? If it even is your husband. Do you think it is?

If so, will you still be able to write to me? I hope so!

I can understand if you have to stop. I mean, your safety comes first. And if you were trying to keep your husband from finding you and the kids, and then it turns out that he’s in touch with your pen pal’s brother…  I’ll do whatever you need to and respect your decision.

It’s just that I hope we can keep writing. Your letters–and you–mean so much to me! I keep your letters locked up in my desk and your emails in a password protected folder. Norm’s got his own account on my computer, so when he uses it, he logs in as him. He doesn’t know my passwords.

Since I’m not sure you’ll still feel like you can write, I’ll make this a long letter and tell you everything!

I’m enclosing some pictures of Jena, just like you asked. Isn’t she a little nut?


Her face is so expressive. I can always tell just what she’s thinking and feeling. I hope she keeps that quality all her life. I love a face that reveals all! (You know I’m bad at secrets!)

We had family day at my uncle’s on Sunday.

When we got there, Jena was in such a mood.


Even when she’s grumpy, she tries to be polite. We sat together in the living room, and she folded her little hands in her lap.

“What’s the matter, Cat?” I asked her.


“Stupid noisy train!” she said. We had taken the Rapid Transit into the city.

She really dislikes loud noises, and I think she dislikes crowds. Kaitlin, do you think toddlers can have PTSD? Sometimes, she seems shook up after we’ve been around lots of people, and I don’t know if this is normal over-stimulation for a sensitive child or if the trauma she experienced in the camp gets triggered.

To help her calm down, I got her a snack, put a Haydn  string quartet on my uncle’s stereo system, and gave her a little time alone.


Half an hour later, she was happy and laughing with Norman.


I know I tease Norman a lot, and he probably doesn’t come off that well in all my letters. It’s not fair to him! He really is an awesome guy. He’s my big brother!


And he’s Jena’s uncle. I feel so happy that she’ll get to grow up with a cool, funny, and smart uncle, just like I did.


Oh, Kaitlin! Norman’s got such a good heart, if he can just find his way from his head so he can feel it!

Maybe, if he is writing Newt-your-husband, some of his goodness might possibly maybe rub off on Newt, just like Newt’s confidence has rubbed off on Norman. What if? What if something good comes from this for both of them?


I know. You probably think I’m foolishly optimistic, like my uncle. Jasper thinks every painting is a masterpiece! And I think every person has a heart of gold, if only they can find their way to it.


Oh, I got so carried away with my letter that I forgot I hadn’t answered all your questions!  About a significant other: Your guess is right. I’m single. I’ll share a secret: I’ve never had a boyfriend. Or a girlfriend, either. I’m just not sure I think that way–or at least, not yet, anyway. I remind myself of a character in a Mary Wilkins Freeman story–very oriented towards family and home, but more content to take care of someone else’s child than to have my own, and much happier to have my rooms and my books and my thoughts to myself than to have to share them with someone who feels he’s due them, at the end of the day.

It’s not lonely for me. It’s my choice. It’s free.

Hailey’s father sounds wonderful–and I hear such love in your words when you write about him. I hope the complications in your situation find resolution. It can happen! Or at least, in novels it always does. Maybe in life, too?

I feel so bad when you write that I’m your support system because what if Norman’s Newt is your husband Newt and that comes between us? Oh, I hope nothing stops us! I hope you can still feel safe enough to keep writing! I want to be able to keep hearing about you and your beautiful children, and I want to be able to cheer when you write me that letter telling me that you and Hailey’s dad worked it all out and he’s moving in! Or whatever you decide to do. I’m sure it will be wonderful.

Oh, before I go, I just wanted to tell you to have hope. I guess that’s something I learned from Jena. I mean, to come from something as terrible as she experienced, and now to be a smart, thriving, opinionated little kid–that’s a miracle that fills me with hope. It’s love that did that. And you: your whole being is so full of love! I know only the best will happen for you and that you’ll make it through this challenge and you’ll be so strong that all the love in your heart will be super-charged with Super You Power!

I sound like my crazy brother when I write like that. He really is a good guy, even if he’s got a big mouth.

Take care, please! I hope you feel you can still write.

Be safe.

Lots and lots and lots of love,


p.s. We don’t have any pets. We haven’t been able to find any! We tried adopting a pigeon that wandered through the field, but that didn’t work out. Maybe one day we’ll have a cat? We’re hoping!

p.p.s. Sorry I had to share that weird news. I hope you can still write! And maybe it’s not even the same Newt?

p.p.p.s. But of course I understand if you can’t keep writing.

p.p.p.p.s. Bye! Or… until next time! And thank you so much! Thinking good thoughts!

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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Kaitlin 2

A reply to: A letter from Kaitlin


Dear Kaitlin,

Thanks so much for your letter! I can’t believe I couldn’t keep straight how many children you have and that you actually have four, plus the grandson! Three babies under five, plus a child and a teen! I can’t even comprehend!

You’re amazing. Seriously. Take a moment to think of what you are accomplishing. You’re an incredible person, Kaitlin!

I’d love to know more about your children and grandchild. Will you tell me more?

I’ve been thinking about identity after getting your letter. You wrote that you didn’t have a chance to become you before becoming a wife and mother. When I read your letters, I hear YOU so clearly! Somehow, along the way, you seem to have found your core identity, your sense of self. Maybe you found that through having to be strong for others.

Sometimes, it seems that we find ourselves through living our lives, with all their hard times and good times.

Up until now, I “found myself” in a different way, through daydreaming, thinking, and pondering. I’m not nearly as together as you seem to think I am! I’ve lived mostly in my thoughts and observations. I have a good understanding of folklore and of art and imagination, but I often feel I haven’t a clue about the nature of this world and the people in it.


Now that I’m in a life where so much of my time is given to caring for another, I am finding myself through relating. Maybe this will teach me about people.

Jena seems oriented to relating. I have a feeling she will grow up people-smart. I don’t often see her playing, reading, or talking by herself, like I did when I was little. Instead, she likes to play near me. She loves to tell me stories. They usually involve a cat.


Do you have much support, Kaitlin? I can’t imagine how taxing it is to have five kids that you’re responsible for! Your baby’s father sounds like a kind man. If you discover that you love him, then I wish you all the best!  And at the very least, it seems that Hailey will have a loving father in her life.

My brother and uncle, which is all the family I have left, have been amazing to me. My uncle is Jena’s favorite person, and he helps a lot with caring for her. My brother is really a big kid himself, so he hasn’t taken to the caretaker role like Uncle Jasper has, but he’s there for me, and I love him for that!


Jena’s doing really well. We’ve gotten past our initial communication barrier, and with that, so many of her frustrations, fears, and sorrows have melted. I can genuinely say now that she is a happy kid! Knowing the hardship she came through and the tragedy and trauma surrounding her conception and birth, I can say that’s a miracle, and it makes me think that maybe, happiness always has a chance.


Thanks so much for being my pen pal! Your letters help more than you can know, and I admire you so much!

Hope you find a way to sneak in a little fun and pleasure for yourself. You know what they say us mommies need: Extreme Self-Care! 🙂

Lots of love,


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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Kaitlin 1

A reply to: A letter from Kaitlin


Dear Kaitlin,

What a happy surprise it was to get your letter!

I’m so happy to hear from other moms, especially ones with two-year-olds!

Aren’t they funny little people?


Some days, it seems like I spend hours watching Jena. I’ll sit down near where she’s playing, intending to do some work or something productive, and then, before I know it, hours have passed, and what have I accomplished? Mommy time. That’s all!


When I write it like that, it makes it seem like “mommy time” isn’t important. But it is! I know it is. It’s just that I’ve got this habit in my mind of marking off my tasks: Did I finish a painting? Did I write more in my book? Did I pay bills or clean house or go for a jog or do yoga? And many days, the answer to all those questions is no. Because what did I do? I watched Jena. I played with Jena. I talked with Jena.

Oh, I sound like a terrible mom, don’t I?

I mean, I have fun doing Jena-stuff all day! I love it! It’s just that it’s fun–it’s a pleasure! So my work-ethic mind beats me up a little bit, saying things like, “You didn’t get anything productive done today. You’d better get something done tomorrow.”

Hmmm. I think maybe I need an attitude adjustment, don’t you think? Because, really, Jena-stuff is the most important thing I could do. As another mom of a toddler, do you agree?


Oh, I’m so sorry for spilling everything like that! I mean, this is my first letter!

Let me try again.

Kaitlin. Thank you so much for writing to me. I’m so impressed that you’ve got three kids and a grandbaby and you still have time for a pen pal! You must have learned some time management skills.

You’ve definitely learned parenting wisdom! I found your letter so supportive and reassuring.

I guess I should probably update my profile. I wrote it months ago, and you know how quickly kids develop at this age. By now, most of the problems I described in my profile have been solved!


It turned out that Jena was speaking Urdu, which she’d learned at the refugee camp in Turkey, and once we realized that, it didn’t take long for her to start picking up English. We talk all the time now, and most of the time, we understand each other.

I guess now, my biggest challenge is trying to discover who I am in my new role as mom. It’s so easy for “being mom” to take over who I am and I lose “being Meadow.” Do you know what I mean?

I’m sorry for sounding so selfish. Today, this is something that’s been on my mind.


You had a few questions for me. I am single. I’ve never been married, and I’m pretty inexperienced in that whole arena. I’ve been more focused on my education and simply the experience of being, really, rather than on “being in a relationship.”

My decision to adopt Jena was pretty immediate. I mean, of course I had to think about it, but it seems like my mind went into hyperdrive and I thought it through in a hundred different variations in about twelve seconds.

You see, my friend Jordan works with a refugee center here in Windenburg. My education is in folklore, so I’d stopped by the center to talk with some of the refugees to learn more about the oral culture and traditions in the camp for a paper I was writing. When I walked into Jordan’s office, there was Jena, sitting on the floor, and she looked up at me, and I felt an immediate connection.

I picked her up and held her while Jordan and I talked.

The next day, Jordan called. Long story short, he wanted to know if I was interested in adopting Jena. Of course I wasn’t. My dad was committed to sustainability, and he drilled into us that the only solution worth pursuing was the sustainable solution, and of course, adoption is not a sustainable solution for the refugee crisis.

But before Jordan could even say, “She has no one,” my mind stopped talking, and I felt rising up from the soles of my feet this big giant “YES!”

I have so much. I’m so fortunate and so privileged, and I’ve done nothing at all, whatsoever, to deserve this good fortune, and maybe, maybe this time, it was more important to do what was right for one little girl, one other human being, than to try to solve all the problems of the world in a sustainable manner.

I think I made the right decision. Even now, when I’m trying to find the balance of being me and being mom, I think it was the right decision.


I mean, all I have to do is look at Jena.

And I also think that figuring out how to be a mom is a pretty great endeavor. I mean, look at you! You’re a mom and a grandma, and I can tell you’re a really great friend, too.


I’m so sorry for dumping all my challenges on you! It’s been such a day!

Next time, you share your challenges with me, if you want, and I will do what I can to help you feel better!

You know what? Writing all this to you, and now, listening to little Jena play, I feel like it’s all going to be OK!

Thanks, Kaitlin! I can’t wait for your next letter, and I’ll try not to be such a crazy person when I reply!

Lots of love,


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