My older son Jasper wrote me a letter a few weeks before the end of school. He’s been on a letter writing roll for a while now. He would come home from school, cheeks rosy from the warm air outside and whip open his backpack. From his red folder, he would pull out five letters that he wrote that day in school – to grandparents and various family members and friends.
In one stream of motion, he would gather his pencil and rush to the dining table with a fresh set of paper. Tapping his NYC subway pencil against the side of his head, he would ask, “Mommy, who should I write a letter to?” We’d then generate a long list of potential recipients, and he’d set to work.
One afternoon, we returned home from school and I just wanted them in the house and settled – shoes offs, coats off, backpacks off, lunch bags on the kitchen counter like a well-rehersed dance. Yet, our performance resembled something more like a clown show – clumsy, miscued, messy. It was one of those trying afternoons where I struggled against one son’s tantrums on the way home and the other son’s latest mood swing.
I retreated to the bathroom (cliche, I know) and held my head in my hands. Then, Jasper slipped a piece of paper under the door. My first thought was, “Can’t I get a minute of peace in the bathroom???” I picked up the paper and read it.
I opened the bathroom door. Jasper was draped over our hamper, slip sliding in his socks on the wooden floor. He stopped and looked up at me with his goofy crooked tooth smile.
“Thank you Jasper. I love my letter.”
As he retreated to his room, I took a blank piece of paper and wrote him a letter, slipped it under his bedroom door. I told him some of the things that I loved best about him and waited for his reply.
I’m not the best at expressing my emotions, especially when that emotion is coupled with vulnerability and I’m supposed to express it to someone I love and care about. Thoughts seem to roll out easier and more fluent when my fingers string the words together. You could probably trace it back to my upbringing, my parents, my Asian background (we don’t speak emotions in my family) but it doesn’t really matter, does it?
My love affair with letters began when I was eight years old. My father had recently passed and our family received a lot of letters and cards. Notes of sympathy and condolences. But among that stack of letters and cards and sad sad condolences was a letter addressed to me, from the daughter of a family friend, a pseudo-cousin if you will. While she wrote to say that she was sorry about my Dad, she also wrote to say hi and to ask me questions. From that point on, we exchanged letters constantly. It provided me with a strand of communication and friendship.
When my husband and I first started dating, we communicated predominantly via email. We were co-workers at a small consulting firm and tried to keep our relationship under wraps. Even though we worked a few desks away from each other, we emailed each other throughout the day. Having that form of communication allowed me to open up in ways that I probably wouldn’t have as quickly in person.
I find comfort in the written word. It’s also a way for me to think through my thoughts and get them out of my brain without the filter of emotion and the cascade of words stumbling out of my mouth. I love how letters can express and create a deep connection between two people through the magic of words.
When I watched Jasper throw himself headlong into letter writing, I found a new kinship with him and his need to capture his thoughts in words and use those words to express himself to others. He’s not always the biggest talker and he sometimes gets shy, but I see his desire to communicate and connect when he brings out his paper and pen.
Do you write letters?
More Ways to Follow Love, Life, Surf