This past weekend I got a gift from a dear life long friend. I got a box with letters I'd written to her over a 20 year span, 1994 to present day.
Today I planned a very specific and quiet morning. I cleared a large area where I could sort and order the letters by date. I readied myself with 2 cups of strong coffee and the review began.
I counted a total 55 letters, 2 postcards and a poetry manuscript. Almost all of the letters are still in the original envelopes with worn, cancelled postage, most letters with festive return address labels. My handwriting similar to what it is today; depending on how fast the letters were written, the penmanship ranges from elegant and very legible to fast hurried sentences racing across the page.
The letters were written in Vista, Atlanta, Panama, Canada, Fort Lauderdale and over the skies on several Delta flights during my Project Mgr days at cox. Most of the letters are 2 and 3 pages long, probably 1/2 are typed and printed, the balance written by hand.
The time spent with them today was 2 or 3 hours. I didn't read all of them from beginning to end. My objective today to understand the breath and volume of this wonderful gift. I was not aware that the letters were being saved until I got a call a few months ago letting me know that the collection existed.
The first letter is dated in 1994, I was 35 years old. When this letter was written in 1994, I had already known my dear friend for 23 years. I met her in 1971 when I was in the 7th grade, at Pitcher Junior High, she was my awesome and wonderful homeroom and English teacher, Miss Young.
Yes one of those teachers that they make documentaries about, yes one of those teachers that everyone should be so fortunate to have in their lives. Yes, one of those special teachers that instructs and challenges you about the subject at hand, and at the same time, instructs you and guides you about your talents, your potential, your opportunities and about all that is good in life. Yes one of those special teachers that you carry in your heart and mind forever. One of those special teachers willing to take a risk and invest in the lives of their students.
Let me set my 7th grade year in context. It was 1971, I had only been in the US for 1 year. Even though we all knew English when we moved to Barstow from Panama, it was not our first language. The Junior High was also new and different; in Panama when I was going to Catholic school, the secondary grades were not split out. We had 7th through 12th grade all in the same building, on the same daily schedule, riding the bus, etc. The new Jr. High in Barstow joined three different elementary schools, Crestline, Montara and Cameron, so in that homeroom, we had students I did not know. In 7th grade we also lockers and "dress out" PE, OMG ! I was 12 years old and needless to say the beginning of that school year was a scary.
Miss Young was a cool teacher, high energy and she loved English. I remember not liking the grammar part of our classes and assignments. It is almost technical.
When we switched to the creative part of the English class I was drawn to the stories, the discussions, and when we had to write - AH, I was excited, motivated and Miss Young made words and stories and plots and characters come alive and make sense.
The pivotal assignment that changed me, the assignment that began a life long love of reading, writing, poetry, books: writing a journal entry everyday. This was during the 2nd semester of that 7th grade year. That assignment, the act of committing thoughts, ideas, emotions, to paper everyday, absolutely took hold of my young 7th grade psyche and the love I learned that semester for "all things writing" has been with me ever since.
I am not sure why Miss Young saved the letters. Perhaps for some of the same reasons I saved letters from my family. I am so grateful she did.
On the part of the writer, the letter commits thoughts, ideas, emotions, care, love, discovery, news and so much more to paper. In the immediacy of writing there is trust and love and friendship, a connection that is celebrated and recognized by investing in the missive.
On the part of the reader, there is much of the same, the reception, care and preservation of the letter requires investment between the reader and the writer. The paper, the words, the news, the updates, they all matter.
And for both the writer and the reader, the ability to hold the page or pages, the ability to discern tone, volume, the act of folding, unfolding, sealing the envelope, opening the same, confirming the postmark, all of that is part of gift that both writer and reader give to each other. The unspoken connection - words on paper - continue to weave a bond that is unique to the relationships forged via correspondence. There is history, perspective, and accounts of all things LIFE !
I am so grateful for the opportunity to review each letter with care. I will save them and one day share them via a project that will encompass all the letters I've saved over the years. Not sure exactly what shape the letter project will take, I will provide updates.