I have a void inside me; empty, hollow. A vessel that is sinking slowly, and sometimes I do not think it will resurface.” (letter to mama, date unknown)
When I was younger I struggled to bring words to the surface. At the age of 12, when I began to experience mental health difficulties, I turned to writing as a way to communicate with my mother. At night I would place a sealed envelope at the bottom of the stairs for her to read. In the morning, before leaving for school, I would collect hers to devour alone on the bus. It became our way of talking without speaking and continued until I left home for university.
I never knew that my mama kept those letters. Recently she told me that she had stored them in a box and I looked through them when I visited her at my childhood home. They filled me with a great sadness, representing a time when I felt so alone with my confusing thoughts and feelings. For me, time has stood still in our family home. My emotions are stuck in my childhood: grief, melancholy, anguish. My mama sees it differently. The letters are evidence of our unique bond, a way of communicating even when words felt impossible to share. Since I left home my mother has grieved in her own way, yet transformed her home into a place of sanctuary and peace. Our family home filled with 30 years of memories means such different things to both of us.
The relationship between my mother and I has always been complex. Weighted with emotions — good, bad, in between — yet there is a bond that binds us together closely, through our life experiences of light and darkness. Returning to these letters has allowed us to revisit the past and look forward to the future, together.
My mother died unexpectedly in early 2019. Unfortunately we never got to finish working on this project together.