May 12, 1974
I’m writing you today to say, “I’m glad I’m your mom.”
I am now, and always have been, so proud of you, Jo. Can’t remember a single moments’ “trouble” that you’ve ever been in or any periods of anxiety that you have caused. Sure there were minutes of panic…like the time Colleen hit you with the baseball bat. But so far as the really important things like your character and independence and industriousness are concerned, you’ve never caused me any doubts.
With much love, Mom”
As a newly retired teacher—first Fall without students—woohoo!—I can FINALLY get to some gargantuan projects that I’ve wanted to tackle for like ever. Seriously; we’ve lived in our house almost 24 years—that’s over half of the time I’ve been married.
One such task was culling through almost a lifetimes’ worth (well, since I was 18) of old letters I’ve saved.
What a treasure trove it has yielded–sparks of memory fanned into flame, words from the the past that have fluttered across my vision, sadness and melancholy and sweet joy all rolled into one. It has been a sobering experience, actually.
The process took about three weeks. Boxes everywhere, piles of old letters threatening to topple and spill, pounds and pounds of ‘who in the world is this card from?’ and “who is Katie and why do I need this Valentine from 2nd grade?” ending up in the Recycle Bin. A very satisfying activity, especially when I downsized my paper estate to two medium sized boxes.
I love to write and send cards and letters. Still. And better still is the joy and pleasure of receiving a handwritten letter in the mail; it’s like finding a sweet surprise. Saving and keeping old (and new) cards and letters is preserving the bedrock of the past. A bedrock of shared history, a running record of highs and lows and in betweens—the events that make up the everything that is our life.
I have letters my husband wrote when we were first courting, then engaged. He is effusive in his love for me and his love for Jesus (I think He loved Jesus more—still does). There are intimations of some of the challenges we faced back then in our Jesus People days, but nothing fazed him. He was a little starry eyed (I’m sure I was, too.)
The most precious letters are those from my mother who died over 30 years ago. Reading her thoughts was a bittersweet experience. Sweet because I didn’t remember all the kind things she’d said to me (like those above), but bitter because of course, she’s gone. I think my grandchildren will enjoy getting to know their Great Grandma Helen a little bit when they read her letters, too, someday.
“April, 14 2016
Dear NaNa, I will do more vidos in futur. When we went to the beach mom brang choklete cake and we rented a beach house and stayed there for 2 and half days and we had so much fun (no period)
Love, Abigail “
(Abigail just turned 9 in September)
Keeping what we love is a way to share a legacy with those who come after us, too. Old books, letters, quotes, poems, pictures—they all tell a story of our lives by revealing what’s important to us, what makes us tick. What keeps us.
But letters, especially—the writing and the receiving—are a way to make ourselves known—and don’t we all long to be known? The things I keep are a way to tell you who I am—what speaks to me, touches my heart, moves me to laughter or tears.
When I write my name in a book it means (usually) I’m going to keep it and read it. And if I like it a lot, and think you may like it too, I’ll offer to share it. Talking about stories and words that have touched us is a way to build a bridge that connects us heart and soul, a way of saying, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, “what, you too?
Words are a way to carry the weight of being known. The words we love, the words we keep, keep us.
Postage stamps are still only about 43 cents….you can’t put a price on a pen and ink epistle. Who will you write today?
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