love letters. what? you don’t have any? keep them in boxes and drawers, tucked away, folds well-worn? well, that is a shame. not only because, at the time they are written, they are a way to connect with a person you are not immediately near but are thinking about, but also because, after saving them in bundles for a decade or more, if you happen to re-read them, you find that they are a very slanted, emotional look at a part of your life’s history.
i should know. i’ve never received the letter i could toss in the bin. even from people i don’t like or no longer speak to. i’ve been known to keep random hurried notes from friends and relatives scribbled on the backs of the most random things, stained with various food stuffs, the ink smeared. the message something sometimes as mundane as “we went to dinner. meet us down there”.
there is something about someone’s handwritten notes that is sacred. this from someone who barely has the patience to write with a pen and paper any more and gets a terrible cramp from trying to do so, it’s attempted so infrequently.
needless to say, all of this is merely an intro to what i want to say. which is that i cleaned my basement the other day. no, i don’t need a standing o and of course when i say “i”, what i really mean is greg did most of the cleaning and hauling while i minded the kiddies. that is switched joel from the bouncer to the floor mat every few minutes when he got cranky and constantly shoved a new toy at him when he tired of the old one, and simultaneously kept up a conversation with ruth about her imaginary friends who do this and that along with one with greg as he sorted through our rolling majestic hills of junk. “what’s that? yes, i’m keeping that orange shirt! what ruth? allah likes orange. no pink. that’s nice. no, greg, if we’re keeping your sailboat pillow, we’re keeping that. ruth, why are you yelling? allah doesn’t like pink. ok, fine. good. i’m glad. she what? she doesn’t like pink but she wears a pink ribbon? greg, put that back, have you lost it?? i love those shoes. i will wear them eventually. ruth! what are you yelling about? allah wears shoes like that? good! what else does she wear? nothing? ok, good. great.” we worked all day, but at this speed, we can expect to finish cleaning our basement in about 20 years.
i was finally able to break away from the kids and greg to go through some of my personal things. little black holes here and there, how i think of them. boxes filled with things that have no use but that i simply have the intense need to keep forever. memorabilia. like a hospital bracelet from when we rushed ruth to the ER one night before she turned one for hives. and like all of the cards we got for our wedding. pictures. so many pictures if you put them into books, there would be no room to store them. and letters. from friends. relatives. and greg. love letters.
i took one out of the trunk that i had just cracked open for the first time in maybe five years with a squeak and a musty burst of stale air. i noted the serial killer handwriting that was so familiar to me but that i haven’t seen in a while. i looked at the address. my old home address. the return address. somewhere in the U.P. the post mark. 2003. ten years ago. i read the letter. then another, until i was literally re-living that summer apart from greg. long before children, long before we were married, before i had even said “i love you”. and, something that is very rare these days, i felt time sloughing off until i was that twenty year old myself, desperate to reach the mail box every day, waiting for these letters from my boyfriend, taking them and reading them on my bed, thinking of the future, when we would be back together at the end of the summer and beyond.
and i discovered something. dripping from all of these letters was the oozing sentiment of deep yearning. to be together. and i had one of those…what do you call ’em? “ah-ha” moments. just this: i. am. living. my. dream. ruth, my daughter was yelling in the other room. greg was muttering in the corner about how unorganized i am. joel was on the verge of a breakdown. we live in a tiny house. have enough money to get by and very little left over. this….it doesn’t look how i thought it might. but this….was what i had always wanted. what was written over and over in desperation in letter after letter. for years. to be with greg. have a life together. a family.
so…that was a surprise. and just goes to show you the value of being a hoarder and never throwing things away. so there. i, of course, placed the letters back into their lovely black hole where they belonged and where i can always find them when i need to be reminded of my old self. and also that…i have it all.