So after my great kid headed back to school after his long winter’s nap (and I’m not kidding; he napped a lot when he was home. Seriously, a lot) I started the process of readjusting to life alone again here in my little cozy nest of a home. I’m been trying to downsize, inspired by the great Peter Walsh who has shared his ideas on how to declutter your house in 31 days. And in the process, I’ve been coming across old letters, cards, notes and reading each one before I make the decision of should it stay or should it go. The concept of having something tangible in your hands to look at, to hold, to carry around with you is very compelling and the decision on whether something is worth keeping is at times dificult.
And because we literally had to put pen to paper to write these notes and cards, it seems to me that we often put more effort into our thoughts and our wishes for the person on the receiving end. Because putting it down in writing and sending it off, unable to retrieve it from the intended recipient, seems to me to have required a certain level of care and thoughtfulness and consideration for the object of our affections.
So much of our communication these days is through social media. Other than my mother who – God bless her – never forgets anyone’s birthday and always sends a card (usually with $20 tucked inside so the person can “get a little something for themselves”), I actually – and I suspect I’m not the only one – get very little real mail any more. I get plenty of mail, don’t get me wrong. But it’s catalogues and flyers; bills and requests for donations; coupons galore and far too many magazines. (Note to self: download magazines on your Kindle and stop killing trees by getting paper copies.) So when I do get a note or a card, it’s a great thing. The anticipation of ripping open the envelope, taking out the card or note and enjoying the words someone wrote just for you is thrilling. It’s like getting a little present at the end of the day. And when someone tells you that they’ve kept a note you wrote them or a birthday card you sent them, there’s just no way to top that simple pleasure.
But we’re all so busy that we’ve conditioned ourselves to believe that a Happy Birthday shout-out on Facebook to one of our dearest friends is OK. That expressing condolences when someone says they’ve lost a loved one or are remembering someone close to them on a birthday or anniversary is acceptable. That congratulations on a baby or a wedding or an accomplishment is the same as the written word in a card or note. Deep down, we know – or should know – that it’s not.
In going through my cards and notes and letters, I found notes my Dad had written in his chicken scratch handwriting after I got divorced, urging me on, telling me I’d done the right thing, letting him know he and my Mom were always in my corner, encouraging me to believe that a better future was ahead for my great kid and me. And those notes now are all I have left of my Dad, gone now almost 4 years. How could I ever throw those away?
I found a Mother’s Day card that my great kid had colored and printed in his 5th grade boyish handwriting telling me that he would always love me no matter what and would always take care of me and thanking me for what I had done. And all I had done, truly, was give birth to him and try to live my life as my parents lived theirs, so that he could learn to become a good person by example, as I had (I hope) become a good person by watching and imitating and soaking up all my parents said and did and practiced and preached.
I discovered a poem that the love of my life had written for me, one I had memorized years before and which I carried around in my heart, but to see his words again on paper, to hold that paper in my hands knowing his hands had held it too, hands I’ll never hold again because he had died too young and too soon, means everything to me. It means I still have him here with me.
So maybe having a few shoe boxes full of old letters and cards and scraps of paper might take up a some valuable closet space but I can’t, I won’t let them go. These words from people I love made me and still make me the person I am today. How could I ever let them go?
Take time when you can and write someone you love a note of encouragement, a thank you for a kindness, a wish that they’ll feel better, a promise that you’re there for them if they need someone to listen. You’ll feel better doing it. And I promise you that they’ll never forget that you did it. Everyone wins.