Saturday 8 January 2011

Write a Letter

A few months ago my husband's great aunt Dorothy died. At her memorial service, her grandson, Simon, read a few excerpts from the letters she had written to him throughout his life.  Dorothy was a prolific letter writer.  In this day and age of modern technology, other than a few birthday cards and Christmas cards, I rarely receive hand addressed envelopes and certainly never receive hand written letters.  And I don't really expect to.  That would be like deciding to go back to horse and buggy.  I wouldn't be too popular on the motorway, I reckon.

And I am a big technology fan.  I text if I have to.  I love email.  It's fast.  I love Facebook.  It's even faster.  I love Twitter.  It's the fastest of them all.  Embrace change!

But there is something nice about getting an old fashioned letter.  It took time and you know that.  And there is something far more permanent and higher quality about a letter.  The stationary is special.  The handwriting is personal.  When my grandmother died, I found boxes of the letters and postcards I had written to her when I first moved to Germany.  It was a fascinating journey through my life as I watched myself change and grow and mature through those letters.  I can't imagine that if I had made that journey during the age of email that I ever would have had the ability or foresight to rifle through her email inbox.  Besides, I don't think she even would have kept them or I would have been able to find them.  And I was able to match the letters she had written back to me with the letters I had written to her and it is a strange sort of journal of our lives during that time from two different perspectives.

Listening to Simon read just a few bits from the hundreds of letters Dorothy had written to him over the years, brought smiles and chuckles of laughter from the assembled congregation.  Her thoughts about current events was captured.  Advice was liberally dispensed.  Her personality sang out.  There wasn't a dry eye in the church.

It was in that moment that I realised it was important to me to give a similar gift to my children.

Our son, Sebastian, has embarked on an amazing journey.  Over the last 18 months he has been learning how to be a chorister and during this time he spends less and less time with us at home.  By February of this year he will be boarding full time.  We will get to see him on Wednesday and Friday evenings and all day on Saturday but the rest of the week he will be far too busy to absorb the depth of my feelings.  Besides, he's 9!  Mom can't seem a bit heavy at times and we aren't talking about my weight fluctuations here.

Last school term I often wanted to tell him how proud I was of him and it seemed insufficient to just say it in the rush of homework, dinner, bath and bedtime routines.  And the last thing I wanted to do was ring him on the boarders phone and interrupt whatever might be consuming his every waking thought.  That would be a very uncool mummy thing to do.  So I started writing him a letter each week.

I found some beautiful stationary that I bought in Italy over 12 years ago in my long abandoned stationary box that I'd never had the opportunity to use what with the demise of letter writing and all.  I got out my beloved fountain pen which did require a new ink cartridge and I sat down and wrote.  When I handed him his first letter, I asked him to keep them in his trunk and not to lose any or throw them away. I thought he would blush but he didn't.

I drop the letters off at the school office on Tuesday afternoons when I pick up Abigail and Sebastian has already gone up to the song school for one of the days two rehearsals, right before the evensong performance.

I was surprised to find one pinned up on the cork board next to his bed the week of Christmas.  He was working so hard at being the best chorister he could possibly be and I could see the dark circles around his eyes but he assured me that he was having a blast. When I asked him if he was afraid that someone would read the letter and he would be embarrassed by it, he just shook his head, like "why would I think that?".    "Don't you really want to hide it away in your trunk with the other letters I have given you?"

"No," he replied, completely unfazed.  "that was the letter you wrote to me after you saw me perform The Messiah and I was just so proud to have a mummy who wrote to tell me how proud she was of me, that I wanted it to be up there.  No one else's mummy writes them letters telling them how proud they are.  And when I miss you at night, I can just reach over and read it and it helps me not miss you so much."

OK, so writing letters is a good idea.  Maybe I should do this a bit more.  Who could you write a letter to?  Will you?

No comments: