WHERE DREAMS ARE BORN

Writing by Lee Romberg

THE LETTER

“THE LETTER”

by Lee Romberg

December 23, 2012

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April 7, 2025

Dear Kid,

Thirteen years ago, in November, 2012, your mother (“Wonder Woman” as you’ve heard me call her) and I were going through a difficult period. I was 36 then, and our problems caused me struggle and discomfort and led to the mistake of my life—leaving her. You must realize what a lucky man I am now, because I had a vision of you back then—just after your mother and I split up.

I was scared of having you when the idea of you—not the vision of you—first came. I carried this fear through my relationship. My brain was my archenemy, always thinking how inadequate I was. Then I’d think how inadequate my parents were. How could I be a good father? This thought of you was but one of my issues and it lingered among our others: a lack of communication; a lack of affection; and a surplus of cats: four of mine plus one of hers, all of whom you might remember because they lived into the time we moved from the loft to our first house.

About that loft—it was dazzling! I knew upon renting it that Wonder Woman would approve and I was right—the afternoon we went to take measurements she fell for it instantly, despite the repairs needed, which she stored in her memory for the future. The dealmaker on the place was the 10 by 20-foot window because it framed a glorious view of the midtown Toronto skyline. More than anything I longed to see the first hearty snowfall fill the sky with her next to me. I’d make hot chocolate, put on slippers and hold her tightly as we observed the winter frenzy outside. It would be a wondrous moment—before you existed.

I nicknamed her Wonder Woman because she wore hot pink tennis shorts when we first met. And because she has superpowers. Want to know a few? She can remember everything better than the most astute elephants in the Sahara (before they became extinct). She’s the human Google Universe! She knows where the bathrooms are in most restaurants and is certain which subway car to board so that the doors open in front of the escalator—in any station. And she’s perceptive. Without need for a lasso of truth, she can stare at you and know yours (so, never lie about or try to hack-enhance school progress reports). There are many more, but her most amazing power is the one she has over me. This is something I never told you before: Your mother is my muse. Though she doesn’t intend it, her presence inspires me to create things. And the greatest thing I ever made from her is you.

Wonder Woman has a weakness—she suffers intense migraines. These headaches are to her what kryptonite is to Superman, and she has to give herself a needle whenever a bad one comes about. On August 28, 2012 she had the most severe migraine of all and I thought she might die. I arrived at the hospital to find her lying on a gurney unconscious and on morphine. She twitched and mumbled and I discovered just then how fragile she was. It was so quiet in that tiny room that I could hear her inner workings, her powers revitalizing: Little wonder breaths reaching for oxygen and veins pumping borrowed help from the morphine to kill the kryptonite—which it eventually did. After an hour I took her home in a taxi and she fell asleep on my lap in the back seat. I felt so in love with her, and proud to be the guy responsible for her health and safety. While she slept I whispered in her ear things I couldn’t bring myself to say when she was awake. I don’t know if she heard.

That September, your mother still lived eight blocks away and I was beginning to lose her. I have a confession: I moved into the loft alone because of you. I remember one night a few weeks after I moved in—she came over and we bumped into my neighbour on the elevator. He asked if we were enjoying “our new place”. We?…Our?…She didn’t flinch and with her irresistible smile gave the guy a firm Yes. But her powers were at work then, too. Wonder Woman stared me down in the elevator and knew my unspoken truth: If she doesn’t live here, I can’t be a step closer to having a kid. She knew and I knew but neither of us wanted to talk about it. Then she wanted to talk and I didn’t. Then I wanted to talk and she didn’t. And then we didn’t talk at all.

Keep this letter, okay? Because you’re a tad young to understand some of what I’m about to say. I did things to take my mind off her and you. I told her that I needed space and something else grown-ups call ‘me-time’. Here’s how I spent mine: Eating out of pizza boxes; tweeting; drinking beer and tweeting; coming, going and farting as I pleased; nude vacuuming; one date with a cougar and countless hot dates with porn sites (in those days, before Wii sex caught on, we still used the internet). And I had the envy of my male friends and other men who showed up: “Dude, you have the best bachelor pad,” a pest control guy said once. So did a plumber. See, I renovated—I made the repairs she noted months earlier. I painted the walls a smart greyish-white! I’m a stylish man and I had a spectacle going on that some people you’ll hear about one day named The Joneses would’ve admired.

Wow, I find it strange writing to you. Are you curious how this came about?

I was in my therapist Phil’s office one evening in December, 2012 because my missing your mother got worse, not better. I sat silent with eyes shut as I relived and sometimes reconfigured the past. I was inside myself, crying and experiencing for the millionth time her sleeping in the cab when, out of nowhere, my dead aunt Lynne appeared. Not an apparition, just an image of her as she was before she got cancer. Oh, I wish you could’ve met her. When I was your age she took me to see Fame and let me roam freely with ten bucks at a long-gone store called Merryland Toys. She drove me around in her Mazda RX-7. She taught me Tennis and Blackjack on the Intellivision. One day my uncle cheated on her and she left. And when I reached my early twenties, she died. Lynne’s death solidified her as my guardian angel and that night in Phil’s office I asked her for guidance. Shockingly—within seconds—Auntie Lynne’s message came. She said: “Write To Your Kid”. I started shaking and weeping more, and so vehemently that I couldn’t control body movement or speech. I managed to tell Phil what happened and ran off to write this letter to you.

Though Phil’s MO was to stop me from thinking so much, I did more (I pray you don’t go through life trying to engineer every little thing like I did). While my me-life was full of space, there was just no way I could let her go. I looked out the loft window incessantly, day and night. In fact, from a certain vantage point and if not for an obstruction, I could see the side of her building. It was painful, but I looked there a lot—just to say Hey, Wonder Woman, are you doing okay? Another afternoon while sitting on the couch I witnessed an airplane flying. Was she on it? In the same way I see her when I close my eyes and go inside, I saw the jet’s exhaust emerge clearly and intact, only to disappear into the sky a minute later. That very week, I saw a snowfall and felt like I fucked it all up. It seemed everything important was out the window.

Spring, 2013 came and one wet morning I went to Mount Pleasant Cemetery where I used to think on the bench under the tree near the grave of Albert and Norma Stewart. I was hoping to hear more from Auntie Lynne. But there was nothing. Maybe because when you find yourself in a deserted cemetery, the dead don’t speak to you in English like they do in therapists’ offices. Instead they blow wind around fast, pour rain down loudly and have squirrels look at you funny as if to say Hey buddy, you really bamboozled yourself this time. Actually I was watching a particular squirrel near my bench. Suddenly he spoke, I swear! “Hey buddy, what’s this life you think you’re leading? You don’t wanna let anyone in, do ya? Why are you afraid? Forget children, you’re scared of The C Word, aren’tcha?… I was. He spoke again: “Wanna know what the squirrel C Word is?…‘Chestnut’! I love chestn—“. And then there was a big THHHWWAAACCCCKKKKKKing wind smack. Startled, I looked up the tree then back at Mr. Squirrel. He was gone. The wind calmed and that’s when I heard the faintest voice of my Auntie: “Ceeeee izzzz for ‘Cancerrrr’. I died of breast cancer and my son, your cousin David, is all I left behind. I can’t make you do anything, but don’t be afraid to eat a chestnut.”

I listened to the wind and rain diligently and again there was nothing. And then—I can’t explain it—you appeared! Not an apparition, but the most beautiful image of you standing where the squirrel had been. I saw you—you were real! You placed a rock on Norma’s grave! Do you remember? I recognized you because of your hazel cat eyes. Those are mine, but you can have them, I said to you. I’m not afraid and I don’t need them anymore. I see…. I don’t know where you came from, but you must have her superpowers because you knew just the grave I was sitting near to open the doors to my happiness.

Three days later, a handwritten card from your mother arrived in the mail. She wrote that she was fine with not having children and what she wanted most was to be with me through life. And eventually she came to the loft! She came! And there were now five felines.

We were married at The Berkeley Church in May, 2014 surrounded by everyone we loved. Funny, there’s a loft on the second floor of that church and Wonder Woman parked her invisible jet above it on the roof. After the ceremony we went up there to fly off on our honeymoon and I had a good view down over Queen Street. Strangely, there was a very familiar ‘81 Mazda RX-7 sitting half a block away.

It’s bizarre: As I type this now, on this ordinary Monday in 2025, it feels like the time since fleeted by in an instant. It was only two breaths and a blink that passed when:

She pushed you out with all her strength and all her love.

I pushed you in your stroller with all my love.

We pulled your bedroom door closed each night after we watched you fall asleep. We whispered some good things even though we knew you couldn’t hear.

And I realized:

One day in the future, we will push you away and pull you back at once, temporarily unsure of which it should be, because you’ll have to leave home and make your own life even though we’ll miss you.

One day long ago, I pushed your mother away. I am the luckiest man because she came back. I never pushed her away again.

One day in the far future, I’ll be old and you’ll be near the age I was when we had you. You might have fear about starting a family and it may lead you to struggle and discomfort. All you have to do is come to our house and mention the fright to me. I will understand! She will be there too! We will all sit in the living room and—if this fear finds you during winter—watch a snowfall outside. I will make hot chocolate and hold you tightly and tell you what my life would’ve been missing if you didn’t exist. A few minutes will pass as the three of us sit looking out our window. You must then forgive me if my attention drifts from the snow toward your mother as I look upon her in a way I never could when I was 36. You may see me tremble, crying with joy at the astonishing sight of The Wonder Woman. In 2012, when I was alone, Auntie Lynne told me I had to give this letter to you. One day, I did. And some day, I’ll be dead and will want only one thing from you:

Tell your children that your mother is my muse.                                                                                                                                                         

Dad

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Dec 29/12 NOTE: This letter plays with the past, present and future structurally. Thanks to Margaret Atwood’s tweet, many people have sent beautiful wishes to me and Wonder Woman, which I really appreciate. However, the second half of the letter is what you might call “future fantasy” and in actual fact, Wonder Woman didn’t come back and I never had a kid. That said, the first half of the letter is basically all true. I wrote the entire thing about 3 years ago as therapy and to hopefully help people who may be in the same fearful boat I was in back then. (the timelines in this version have been updated).  - LR

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