Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved to receive letters in the mail. I soon learned that writing letters was the only way to get them back. I had four pen pals as a 10 year old, one in Italy, Sweden, Norway and Australia, with surnames such as Anechinni, Wingard, Larsen and Rawlings. I remember the thrill I felt when a letter was waiting at home with an exotic stamp in the corner. Letter writing stayed important to me when I went away to summer camp and later to college. I have saved every one of these letters and now at the age of 41 have realized why I could never throw them away; They represent a unique connection to my past.
My maternal grandmother, Janney, died in 1998 at the age of 91. I remember wondering how long I would be able to hear her voice inside my head and though I knew it would fade away in time, it is hard for me to accept that now almost ten years later, I can no longer hear Janney. I have all the letters Janney wrote me and I realize in rereading some of them, I can still feel her presence through her words, through her handwriting.
When I turned forty, one of my best friends who I have known for 36 years, gave me a scrapbook filled with letters I had written her throughout the years. It was strange to reread my words, some written 25 years ago. I thought… did I really say that? Do that? Think that? It was embarrassing to read what I had written but it also chronicled a friendship and revealed changes in our outlooks and behaviors through the years. Rereading those letters made me dig into some of my boxes of old letters and I realized that the reason perhaps why I have kept them all these years, is that they represent a tangible record of who and what has made me who I am today.
I send well over one hundred and fifty holidays cards every December. I send cards to some people who I have not actually seen or spoken to in ten years yet I still feel a connection to them. I have revived friendships that were dormant save for this annual exchange of cards and this exchange is what allowed for the renewal of a relationship. I recently received a four page letter from my Australian pen pal with whom I have been corresponding for over thirty one years. We have only met twice but we have a bond, based on dreams and hopes shared over decades of letter writing.
I believe we are irrevocably intertwined with the people of our past. I believe the people who have come into our lives have never really left. The impact of those people in our lives are an unbreakable thread that has been woven into who we are today. This I believe.
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