Mom, How Do You Spell Sorry?

I had just witnessed the unattainable beauty of the beaches of Capri on my social media feed when I felt it like sand beneath my feet. Powdery sand. Nope, that’s not sand. That’s sugar! Real sugar strewn all over my freshly mopped kitchen floor!

“VALENTINA!” I holler, even though three-year-old Tucker, her partner-in-crime, is licking it off the floor on all fours. Valentina is in hiding so I know she’s the guilty one. Ever since she discovered how to make lemonade, she’s also discovered how to open the “crack container” as I call the sugar jar.

I wish I could say I had empathy for my dear children starved of sugar for the better part of the day. But I did not. I rattled off commands like a crazed mother of four children stuck at home on summer vacation.

“Tucker, get the mop! Valentina, the broom! No, actually, GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN!

Then as I was mopping mad, feeling sorry for myself that I wasn’t taking a hotel-view shot of Capri, I hear this tiny sweet voice call out to me from across the room, “Mommy, how do you spell sorry?”

Valentina, pencil in hand, was drawing a picture of me on a piece of paper standing over a pile of sugar on the floor. And I melted. Mad mom turned into a total softy.

“Sorry? S-O-R-R-Y.”

“Two r’s?” she asked.

“Yes, two r’s. Sor-ry.”

Then she added more sweetness, “How do you spell love?”

Oh, dear beautiful child. Keep saying it. Love, love, love. I need more of it to get through the day. “L-O-V-E,” I spelled it out as if I had just won a national spelling bee.

With her simple card, my five-year-old daughter taught me quite beautifully how love calms the soul, puts the sand beneath our feet, or something like that.

Sugar spill pinboard
Valentina pins her card on my office pinboard for all to see.

So now it’s my turn to dish out a little sugar. First, I must explain how this other sugar spill all started. I recently spent two weeks reunited with my family in Illinois. While my kids left with memory buckets to last a lifetime, I left empty. I never had the conversations I wanted to have with my sisters, never shared the book I had been working on the last three soul-searching years. I never told them how much I love them and miss them, how I wish we could be near each other again–more than once a year! There were many feasts had, many opportunities to catch up. But for some reason I shut down. And I wasn’t sure why.

I searched my soul for answers and came up blank until Valentina and Tucker spilled sugar on the floor. And in that mad moment, I realized I was actually mad because my current situation didn’t measure up to the image I just saw of my favorite interior designer vacationing in Capri. How ridiculous.

So what does this have to do with my dear sisters? Sadly, in my younger years, I struggled with measuring up, never feeling good enough. First, there was the sister who always nailed the spot in the front-and-center row of the dance team. (I was pushed to the side, too chicken to do a flip-flop.) Then there’s my six-foot sister who earned a full-ride scholarship to play Division I college basketball. (My parents missed my last senior basketball game when I cried because I sat “sixth man” on the bench most of the game. I still have nightmares about this.) Then there’s my gorgeous youngest sister who manages to find clothes on a dime that I never got, transforming herself into a fashionista. (I thought everyone just wore hand-me-downs.)

Sisters summer 2019
Summer with my sisters

Growing up, I always felt average in comparison. Average height, average weight, just average. Average Emily. Ugh, it hurts to write this. It’s like admitting a lifetime of failures. And all that seems exacerbated now in the era of social media.

I realize this all sounds rather pathetic now that I’m 41. I can’t believe I’m letting it spill out all over again. But it matters. Here’s why: I owe my sisters a BIG SUGARY apology. For too long, I’ve let these silly BIG feelings get in the way of our relationship. And it’s stupid. So STUPID.

Being “average” in sports and dance has actually served me well in the end. It made me that more determined to find my true self later in life. No, I’m not a fashionista. I’m an accomplished journalista and now a proud mom to four amazing children! And seeing my kids’ various spills in sports and in life now, I can better empathize with their pain.

So sisters, I hope you’re reading this. I wanted to spell out S-O-R-R-Y if I let these feelings get in the way of spending meaningful time with you. I LOVE YOU. I know my SORRY is not as sweet and cute as Valentina’s. But know this, though I may be an average dancer, an average basketball player or an average dresser, I never want our relationship to be average or strained because I couldn’t see past old wounds.

Ok, now will you all fly down to Atlanta and help me clean this sugar spill off the floor? It’s a sticky mess, and I can’t think of anyone better I’d like to mop floors with and dance average with like nobody’s watching. Kinda like this…

Mom turns 70 summer 2019 family
Celebrating mom’s 70th birthday in mom wear. Styled by sister Lucy after raiding mom’s closet 🙂


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