DEAR KATIE

Dear Katie,

Once, when I was 17, I got in a fight with Mom and I was sitting in the Academy parking lot and you were like, “Look, maybe she’s not entirely wrong.” And I said, “I can’t wait until you have kids and they call me because they want to get their nose pierced or something and they’re afraid you’re going to freak out, do you know what I’m gonna say? I’m gonna talk them into it. And then, when you’re mad at me, I’ll remind you of this exact moment.” I still stand by that. But any time Addison wants to dye her whole hair purple, you just send her my way and I will gladly, happily, enthusiastically and unapologetically talk her out of it.

My hair is still purple, not for lack of trying to correct this fact. I think maybe I’m meant to have purple hair forever which is incredibly ironic since I haven’t particularly enjoyed having purple hair. I’m currently trying to get back to blonde but I keep having these mishaps. I will have, when it’s all said and done, spent too many dollars and too many hours sitting under hair dryers. I find it particularly poignant that Mom and Dad tried so hard over the years to keep me from making impulsive decisions and all it really took me for me to learn this lesson was to try having purple hair.

As I get older, I realize how much you get out of something, like, say, having purple hair or relationships, is indicative of how much effort you put into them. Again, this is a thing that I think Mom and Dad spent many years trying to teach and I just never paid attention. But now that I live further away and the time between visits gets longer, it’s really starting to sink in.

Maybe it’s one of those optical illusions–you know, how everything seems bigger when you’re a kid?–only in the reverse: the distance feels so much bigger now that I’m older. I see all of the things that can’t get between two people: jobs and kids and life and timing and bad luck and actual physical distance. I feel like I’ve met enough adults who’ve grown apart–from their cousins, their childhood friends, their spouses, their siblings–to realize that nothing, not even history or shared childhood, can stop people from growing apart.

As I get older, I realize how much work relationships are. I mean, I think always knew it on some level, but like, even the ones you take for granted, the easy ones like friendships and siblings aren’t guaranteed to last forever. I’m trying to be better at not just growing up, but growing with you (and my other siblings and our parents and our cousins and aunts and uncles too).

I don’t ever feel like I was the good kid. I don’t think I was the worst kid (Bobby got his name written on the chalkboard at school waaaaay more than I did) but I don’t think I was ever easy. I think what probably tipped me off was how people were constantly saying, “Can you just try not to fight with Mom? Like, instead of talking back, why don’t you try just not talking?”

I’m sorry I was a butt. I’m sorry I wasn’t very good at keeping my mouth shut and I’m sorry for being so stubborn. Not that I would change any of those things, I’m just sorry that you had to deal with them.

I’m still going to encourage your children to make at least a few bad decisions because I’m petty like that and I said I would when I was 17 and I try to keep my promises.

Until my next impulsive hair decision,

Love,

Madelyne

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