Letters from the past.
The friend with whom I have been closest longest lives in Yorkshire, England. We met in 1985. When renovating the living room floor of her stone house in Otley where she has lived for over two decades, she uncovered a treasure trove of our shared history. Among the memorabilia were letters, actual posted letters written on paper, that I wrote to her before email existed. She packaged them up and sent them to me.
Unexpectedly, the first letter in the pile bore Mom’s handwriting. I gasped and felt tears forming.
Mom’s handwriting is so dear to me. It’s messy and slanted and cursive and it means home and love and connection. She has been unable to muster the concentration to write anything, now, for some time.
For years and years and years, her letters trekked to me at summer camp, in college, while touring with The Acting Company and living in New York, New Jersey and Nevada. Years and years, innumerable 8” x 6” pads of plain white paper yielding, sheet by sheet, two or three page letters detailing hers and Daddy’s lives, noting recipes I might enjoy, containing enclosures of coupons or photographs or newspaper articles, relating news of family and friends, simply saying little more than “We love you.” But they came week after week, year after year. And they tied me to my parents and my home as I moved into adulthood and gradual separation.
I stared at this first letter in the pile, written in 2004 and from Pine, Arizona, Daddy and Mom’s summer place. A few photographs slipped out as I unfolded it. They were paper photocopies of snapshots Daddy had made. He’d copied them on the printer/copier that I’d given him one Christmas. Thinner than photographs, thus easier to mail, Daddy used this technique to share the life he so loved and valued with friends back in North Carolina, down in Mesa, with me and now with my friend across the seas.
I could only glance at the letter Mom had written. I will find the strength at some point to read it but not now. Realizing that it was written only a year before her health and Daddy’s began to fade just broke me. Her words, in my hands, are lucid and engaged in life, so pleased to describe the flowers and mountains of Pine, how lovely the summer, how entertaining the grandchildren. Happy. Contented. With no thought for or clue about what was soon to happen to her mentally or to Daddy physically.
In the past few days, I’ve read through, and typed into my journals, several of the letters that I wrote. They’ve dated from the mid and late 80s. These are prompts to my memory. A precious history of my life shared with a remarkable and cherished friend so very far away.