Letters Week: Dear Deja by Leslie Compton

You’re my Darling Darling Deja…

You hear me sing this a lot… But I’m sure you have no clue where it came from. The moment I first looked into your little, slanted eyes, the old song by the O’Jays popped into my mind… Not just because your name fits perfectly into the tune, but the words in the song… At 6:19pm on December 19th, 2002; you, little girl, saved my life.

I remember when I found out I was pregnant at NINETEEN YEARS YOUNG. Of course I knew it all (just like you do now). Everyone had their own opinions, but only mine mattered. I was strong-willed and stubborn (again, like you) and I was determined to prove the world wrong.

And I did.

But I was scared.

A full-time student, working full-time hours, full-time single Mommy (Daddy was out the country), and you lacked NOTHING. You traveled the globe, hung out with celebrities, and there was absolutely nothing you wanted. I was so tired. I would cry at night because I was so stuck. I was lonely. I was scared. Because I knew I had to protect you. As damaged as I was from my past, I had to protect you from the world of drugs, violence, abuse, poverty… I had never been more terrified in my life.

But, how could I tell you daily that you’re perfect and priceless, and I not do my part to preserve you? I wanted so desperately to shield you from the appearance of fear. If you never see it, you wouldn’t know what it looks like. You wouldn’t know how to be afraid. You’d grow up to be fearless, and nothing like me. There’s no way I could allow you to be anything like me. I hid my fear and insecurities and exhaustion and sadness and tears so that you wouldn’t know struggle. So that you wouldn’t know the pain. But baby girl, I struggled… and watching you navigate life now so effortlessly, so proud, and with so much confidence… I have no regrets.  

And you push me to work harder.

It meant the world to me for you to see me cross that stage. Two full years behind my high school classmates. With a 3.75 grade point average and a full-time job offer starting the next month making $55,000 a year. Afterwards, you ran and hugged me and kissed my face. You had the prettiest curls. The brightest eyes. The biggest smile. “Mommy can I have your hat?”

I know you remember when I would have to work those late nights, then go to class on Saturdays. Then we had our Sundays. Mommy-Deja days. Manicures and pedicures. A movie date. Lunch. Dinner. Anything. That was our day. And it was my one day out of the week that I smiled. Not the fake smile for the world to see. But the real smile. The one generated in my soul that just so happened to show on my face. Your happiness, your personality, your loving spirit; that is what brought that genuine smile to my heart.

My love, YOU saved my life. YOU gave me purpose when I had none. When a man couldn’t respect or love me. When my blood drained me. When I couldn’t see life getting better. YOU would cuddle under me and smile and say “Love you Mommy”. YOU gave me all the reasons to not give up. YOU SAVED MY LIFE

YOU taught me my worth. That it was ok to love again when I didn’t think I could. YOU taught me to stay positive and open. Daddy loves you, but Daddy Chris loves us both. YOU taught me that was ok. YOU showed me that things won’t go as we planned, but things will always go as they should. YOU SAVED MY LIFE.

So here you are at 14. About to embark on a new chapter in your life. High School. There’s not a doubt in my mind that you will excel. You’ll adapt quickly. You’ll be a social bug. Overly involved in everything you can. Volunteering for everything. Your teachers and administrators will love you. And you’ll leave a hell of an impression on anyone that crosses your way. You’ll make a name for yourself and stand out amongst your peers. You’ll be vocal and stand up for what you believe in. You’ll continue to make me proud to be your Mom.

But… Boys will hurt you and try to test you. Girlfriends may not remain loyal. You may get teased for being short. You won’t get playing time in every basketball game. You will experience (more) racism, (more) sexism, (more) bigotry. You will get peer pressured to do things I wouldn’t approve of. You may not be chosen for that thing you wanted. Someone (a very stupid someone) will call you out of your name.  You will be let down. You will likely shed some tears in silence in your room.

And I will completely lose my shit. Because I won’t always be there to protect you and shield you from the world. Because there will be things I know you won’t want to tell me (since I can be a bit over the top). Because I remember the days of rocking you in my arms. That day you looked at yourself in the mirror and said your first words “I PITTTTTTY!” Dressing alike unnecessarily. Silly dances in the kitchen. Those random hugs just because. A time when I was Mommy and not just Ma.

But you will be ok. And I will be ok. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are beautiful. Even more on the inside than out. Not a day goes by that I don’t look you in your eyes and say “You’re beautiful baby”, because I need you to always know that is the truth. You. Are. Perfection. Personified.

So when we disagree and argue (and we will), know that Mommy will always be here. Mommy will always have your back. When you are wrong, I will tell you, but I’ll always be on your side. Mommy will always love you. I may have given you life, but you saved mine.

“As long as we may live, I’ll give you plenty love, because you deserve the best, ‘Cause you’re better than the rest… All the things you desire, I’ll do my best to give it to you….. My Darling Darling Deja….”