A Letter Home

Dear Mom,

I have been meaning to write you for quite some time now, but my studies which you insist I prioritize above all else have kept me from doing so. Now that classes have lightened up as Fall Break approaches, I have found the time to put my thoughts onto paper. Thank you for reading, and I can’t wait to see you after Fall Break…

My surroundings change like the direction of the wind, without giving me a sense of control. My values are tectonic plates in perpetual motion and ever since I have traveled far away from home have continuously clashed. My sense of self is a body of water taking the shape of whatever it is around, carrying no structure of its own. And, while the world around me changes, and I am the eye of an ever-expanding, swirling, grey tempest, feeling without control of where the wind will carry me; while my mind shifts like tectonic plates causing earthquakes that leave people and buildings around me without a foundation to rest upon; while thoughts well up like the waters of a typhoon and spread throughout me leaving me questioning who I am, what makes me special, who you are, and who are you to guide me… While all this happens, you have not left from my side.

 No, you have not left. And, instead of taking shelter from the storm that you knew was coming, and that you warned me about but I was too proud to listen, you stayed there with me and brought an umbrella along and jumped in the puddles, laughing. Instead of running away from the earthquake that you just felt, but I was too consumed with my own life to care, you braved it with me showing me firm, level ground to stand on. Instead of fleeing the area when your gut said there was a typhoon coming and I impatiently dismissed your urging as nagging so I could spend more time with friends, you rescued me in a lifeboat, and brought red, juicy watermelon and hot, peach tea with two sugars and a teaspoon of yellow honey with you, because you knew they are my favorite. No, you have not left from beside me.

You have remained despite me wanting to leave and explore the world. When I tell you I am not coming home during break and instead traveling to places you’ve only dreamed of seeing for yourself (not because you couldn’t travel and not because you hadn’t the will to explore, but because you have prioritized us, your children, instead)… when I tell you I am not coming home just yet, you smile despite how dearly you want to see me. Despite how much you want me to come home and share red, juicy watermelon and hot, peach tea, you smile. Despite  how carefree and easygoing and safe those times at home can be relative to how worry-filled and difficult and dangerous my traveling can be (yes, you do all my worrying for me), you smile. Despite all that worrying, despite that cup of hot peach tea going cold and that sweet watermelon you bought special for me souring, you still smile encouragingly I tell you I am travelling the world, instead of coming home.

I suppose you figure that I will come to my senses some day and settle down, another thing you just feel. Or perhaps you don’t, and support me nonetheless because you know someday I will return home. If not today then tomorrow. If not this break then the next. You know that the now cold tea can always be reheated and that the two sugars and the teaspoon of yellow honey only become sweeter with time for it to steep and dissolve. You know that from the soured watermelon come black seeds that produce fruit that once ripe is reder and juicier than the first because it was homegrown. You know that once I return after time apart our experiences will be that much richer, our bond that much stronger, our laughter that much fuller. And so, you smile encouragingly.

And it leaves me questioning if I would ever do the same for someone else. If I would ever have the sense of self sacrifice necessary to brave a storm with the same person whose foolishness caused it to downpour in the first place. If I would ever have the patience and hope necessary to reheat the tea and cultivate an entire garden awaiting for that same person’s return. If I, a young man, would, or even could ever feel what you call a mother’s love for her children

  I can hear your voice telling me not to speculate the future but to live in the present. You would explain that at my age you felt the same way and that it worked out. That as long as I focus on my studies the rest will come with time. You would say that a caterpillar becomes a butterfly when it is time, and that there is no way or reason to rush that process. A butterfly’s beauty comes as much from its vibrant colors, symmetry and grace as it comes from the time it took to develop them. A butterfly wouldn’t be nearly as beautiful if it was never a caterpillar, you would say.

You would tell me I am your caterpillar, your Sonshine. I am not a storm being blown around arbitrarily, nor am I an earthquake wreaking havoc, nor am I a typhoon shapeless without a clear beginning and end. Rather, I am your caterpillar, who in due time will mature into a butterfly controlling wherever I fly, landing gracefully on flowers and bringing beauty and harmony into the world. I know you believe that I am a caterpillar, that you believe in me, because you make it clear to me each time I speak with you. And, I, in my pride, in my arrogance and in my ignorance have refused to listen and show appreciation.

I am writing to you now to tell you that if I am caterpillar then you are my flower providing me with sustenance and reminding me of the world’s beauty. If I am your Sonshine then you are a constant supply of atomic matter fueling my brilliance. If you are my unconditionally loving mother, then I am your unconditionally loving son.

I am writing to thank you for weathering all sorts of feats and refusing to leave my side. I am writing to tell you to warm up the tea and harvest the watermelon, because I am coming home, and I have so much to tell you. I am writing to you because I grateful for all you do for me. Thank you. I miss you dearly. I love you.

See you soon,

                        Your Sonshine

Andrew Carlins is a Master of Management Studies student at Fuqua from Oceanside, New York. His research interests involve the intersection of immigration, economic integration, and religion. During the GradEngage Fellowship, Andrew will work with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and Beth El Synagogue in Durham to explore ethics and the pursuit of purpose during COVID-19 across three generations. Andrew has a B.S from Duke where he studied Economics, History, and Jewish Studies and graduated with honors and distinction.

All posts by