Love Letters

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson and Sweet BugAaah, Mother’s Day, one of my favorite days of the year. Not because it’s the day I’m fed peeled grapes and fanned with a palm frond as I lay on my fainting couch having my toenails painted (especially since I don’t even own a fainting couch).

It’s because this day reminds me of how profoundly my life has changed since becoming a mom; how that little universe I was comfortably operating in shifted on its axis so dramatically that my head still spins ten years later. How my already happy, full, crazy life instantly became more textured and meaningful, and infinitely more challenging (in all the best ways).

Becoming a mom also suddenly compelled me to start doing things I never imagined I’d be doing. For example, never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that when Sweet Bug was just a Tiny Bug in preschool that my love for her would inspire me to dig deep into my creative bucket and pull out a quirky idea that would soon transform into a special ritual for both of us.

It started out simply as a little note and sketch in Tiny Bug’s lunch box, but quickly evolved into a more elaborate daily dose of love and learning. Each day I’d chose a new word for her to learn then make a crayon drawing on her napkin and place the corresponding letter cookies in her lunch so she could match the cookies to the letters on the napkin before she enjoyed her tasty treats.

Every single day of preschool I made Tiny Bug a napkin. And yes, she ate and shared a lot of letter cookies, especially when they were long words (bad mommy).

These napkins were simply meant to be momentary messages of love, to connect the two of us while she was away at school, and to surprise her with a new word each day as an extra way to get her excited about learning.

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with Library page

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with farm page

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with house page

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with star page

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with the write page

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with fish page

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with pink and purple pages

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with tree and spring pages

These napkins, which I made long after Tiny Bug went to bed each night, were never meant to be kept and saved. In fact, when Tiny Bug brought them home from school every day and insisted we keep them, I didn’t know what to do with them—especially the ones with glops of food spilled on them. For a long time I piled them in the corner of our kitchen counter. Eventually, they went into a drawer, then finally a box.

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with planet and colors pages

It was when we moved to a new house the real decision had to be made. Are we seriously going to move a pile of old napkins? I moaned. I’m sentimental, but not that sentimental. But Sweet Bug was adamant: “Mommy, these are special to me. You can’t throw them away.” So, as you may have guessed, along with all of her preschool art, my preschool art went into over-sized portfolios, which we packed and moved to our new house. The absurdity of it still makes me chuckle.

Fast forward several years later…and the dozens of times Sweet Bug pulled out those portfolios to look at her napkins. Clearly, they were special to her, so when I stumbled upon a local book publisher who could scan each of these…ahem, masterpieces…and make them into a coffee table book, I finally decided to preserve them for Sweet Bug for when she’s old and gray (or a mom herself). My husband, being the Awesome Bug that he is, wrote the check for this not-so-inexpensive-book, as a gift to both of us (this was before the ease and affordability of self-publishing).

I titled the book, Love Letters: Mom’s Daily Dose of Love and Learning. Here’s the cover I made for it–on a napkin, of course, with letter cookies attached.

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book, Love Letters

When I look back at these napkins, I can immediately remember the feeling I had each time I made one: pure joy, even on nights when I could barely keep my eyes open. Some are more elaborate than others, and some the drawings totally suck, but each captures a tiny moment in our lives as many contain some element of our family—whether it was a trip to the Getty Museum or Sweet Bug’s favorite teddy bear, or our old lime green Karmann Ghia.

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's Love Letters book Museum page

Becky Aaronson's Love Letters book, with the Green page

Becky Aaronson's Love Letters book with the orange page

Becky Aaronson's Love Letters book with the bird page

Becky Aaronson's Love Letters book with the Cup page

Becky Aaronson's Love Letters book with Fruit page

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with beach page

Becky Aaronson's Love Letters book with the animals page

The two napkins below I made when Jeffrey was working on an art project along the U.S.-Mexican border and Sweet Bug was missing her daddy. That’s Jeffrey in his car yelling, “I’m getting closer. I’m almost home!”

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with Arizona and Texax pages

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with birthday

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with love

Becky Aaronson's Love Letters book with the garden page

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with the vote page

Becky Aaronson's Love Letters book with the tall and ball pages

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with the books page

Becky Aaronson's Love Letters book with the weather page

Becky Aaronson's Love Letters book with flag page

Becky Aaronson's Love Letters book with the mail page

Becky Aaronson's Love Letters book with school page

Being Mother’s Day and flipping through Love Letters again, I couldn’t help but think of my own mom and all the ways she showered me with love. One thing she did when I graduated from high school was write her own love letter–a poem in which she poured out her heart. At the time, I remember thinking it was “nice” or “sweet” (in an eye-rolling, clueless, teenager sort of way), but now, thirty years later, I totally “get it” and cherish these pages containing Mom’s love and creativity–especially as they were written in her own handwriting, and especially now that she’s gone.

I am faaaaaar from a perfect mom. In fact, most of the time I’m flying by the seat of my pants, just hoping I don’t screw up too much. Regardless of what decisions I make or directions I take in guiding Sweet Bug through life, more than anything, I want her to know how deeply she is loved, just like I always knew how deeply I was loved. I want all the ordinary moments and gestures that we share to get folded neatly into her heart like a well-preserved love letter.

Photo of my family when I was an infant

Photo of Mom Green, Becky and Olivia


20 thoughts on “Love Letters

  1. Becky! I just love, love, LOVE this! :)

    You are so amazing, a true inspiration as a mother. This is just simply one of the most beautiful expressions of a mother’s love I’ve ever seen. I’m in awe. How did you ever come up with this idea? I put little notes in my kids’ lunchboxes, too, but they were just a short note on a piece of paper or cardstock with a sticker. Maybe a happy face! Nothing like these elaborate pieces of art. Oh Becky, you continue to surprise me. What a wonderful treasure. So glad Sweet Bug made you keep it!!! :)

    • Wow, thank you Melissa. Coming from you, that means a lot. It also adds a tiny glimmer of sunshine to a horribly sad, dreary day in Santa Barbara after YET ANOTHER mass shooting. This time it’s in our own backyard. It’s times like this when simple things like Love Letters means all the more, as we try to remember the sweetness in life.

  2. Somehow, in all my switching my reading list around, your blog fell off my radar. So glad to have “re” found you. What a lovely, lovely record of your conversation with your daughter, and something to be treasured forever!

    • How nice to hear from you, Tracey! Thanks for swinging by to say hi again. I like how you framed these napkins as a “conversation.” Somehow that gives me a whole new appreciation for them. And the actual conversations my daughter and I had about them after school each day was priceless too, as Sweet Bug shared her surprise about the word of the day or her interpretation of it. I can still vividly remember looking at her shiny face in the rearview mirror as she asked questions on the way home or told me what she did and did not like, all in her squeaky little voice. Pure magic.

    • There’s nothing quite like crayons to add a little color to a day! Glad you got a kick out of these. It’s been fun to look back on them and remember when Sweet Bug was just a Tiny Bug and learning all sorts of exciting new things like voting and reading and writing.

  3. Wow! Just wow! Your Tiny Bug was a smart cookie to save those napkins. They’re wonderful and so filled with love, I could feel it through the computer screen. What an extraordinary family treasure for her to have, just as you have that remarkable letter from your own mom. You are such a talented, creative, amazing lady, Becky — and a World Class Mom!

    • And “Wow. Just wow!” to your nice comment! Thank you, Jayne! I have to admit I’m happy Sweet Bug insisted we keep all these napkins. At the time, I thought it was insane, but because of her persistence, we now have all these little “snapshots” of her preschool years. I only posted about a quarter of them, so you can imagine how many more funny moments have been captured in crayon.

  4. What a wonderful gift you’ve given Olivia–something she’ll treasure her whole life and share with her own children one day. I smell a children’s book coming on…Seriously–you should think about turning it into a book–that napkin idea is really so clever. Lovely post, Becky!

    • I may have to write a follow-up post, “The Scent of a Children’s Book,” inspired by your recent post, “The Scent of a Mother.” :-)

      Thanks for your never-ending encouragement, Jessica. You always have a way of making me feel like my nutty ideas will always find a place somewhere, somehow. Who knows? If nothing else, Sweet Bug will have a fun memory from her preschool days.

  5. You are an inspiration. Your dedication is insurmountable! Olivia is a lucky lady to have you. Indeed, this should be published and I do think words of wisdom in between the napkins would be well received!
    Incredible! Happy Mother’s Day to you!

    • Jennifer, my dear awesome mamacita, thank you for your sweet words, but you have no idea how many times Jeffrey and I have marveled at your dedication to motherhood–knowing all that you put into raising that handsome son of yours. We all approach parenting in different ways, as gawd knows there’s no instruction manual, but really it all just comes down to love, and doing the best we can with what we have, when we have it. Then we all hold our breath and cross our fingers and hope they all turn out ok! :-)

  6. Becky,
    I loved reading your story and looking at those artful paper napkins. I’m so glad that
    Olivia made you save them!! She will always treasure them and hold them dear. Thank you for sharing. And I love the photo of your mom, Olivia, and you.

    • Thanks, Gwen. I have to admit I’m glad she insisted that I save them. At the time, not so much, but now, definitely. Especially as she continues to grow up so quickly. These will always remind me of those precious preschool days. And the picture with my mom, Olivia and me is one of my favorites as it’s the last one I have of the three of us.

  7. Becky, I love this post. You are am amazing mother and artist! I love this compliations of napkins expressed love and would cherish it forever!!

  8. Wow! How heartwarming! Thanks for sharing. I think you should really publish your ‘Love Letters’ book. I think it would be a big seller :) And, your artwork is fantastic! Obviously there’s a short story attached to each one so maybe in between napkins there’s a story with a parenting ‘ah ha’ moment :) Just thinking out loud. Needless to say, I loved this post. I am one of the fortunate ones who has a mother who endlessly shows her love. Others may just need a gentle reminder to do what seems to naturally come to you.

    Happy day!

    • Thanks, Anne! I’m glad you enjoyed this post. I have Sweet Bug to thank for being so persistent about keeping all her napkins. And yes, many do have short stories attached to them. Perhaps a book. If not, a sweet memory for my sweet girl. It makes me happy to hear that you are wrapped in love too. There’s nothing more powerful than a mother’s love.

  9. Becky Green Aaronson!! YOU… are incredible! I could stare at those napkins all day and I am so glad your daughter had the persistence to keep them! Glad they found their way into a book and now other children get to eat letter cookies with Olivia. :) What a fun mom and creative & talented woman you are!

    Thank you so much for sharing with us and Happy Mother’s Day!
    Love love.

    • Thanks, Amy! Wow. Your kind words have reminded me that sharing bits of ourselves with others, even if they’re quirky, imperfect bits, can be a fun way to connect and bring people together. I initially hesitated in sharing this because some of these drawings are downright awful (ha ha), but then I remembered how much joy they brought me each night when I created them and sifted through the letter cookies to find the matching letters for Sweet Bug. The best part was when I picked her up from school each day and heard her reaction to the word of the day. Priceless.

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