I’ve been thinking a lot about a dying-out medium, that of letter writing, and specifically, writing love notes to children.
My mom and I had what I remember as a difficult relationship during my teen years. Not an uncommon story, I know, but still something that impacts into your adult life.
A few years ago, my mom’s cancer took a terminal turn a few weeks before Christmas. On Christmas eve, the UK was deluged in rain and our garage flooded, along with many parts of the country and some of our neighbour’s homes. On Boxing day, my mother died, and all flood debris was ignored until a few weeks later.
I was going through a trunk full of old photos, cards, letters, and other things I had at one point deemed important enough to keep, when I came across letters that I had quite honestly forgotten about. Discovering them was shocking to me, because I had forgotten their existence. But it was powerfully affirming of my mother’s love for me. I mean, I knew she loved me but seeing those letters reminded me of the days I’d come in from school and find a letter from her on my bed.
I don’t know how I responded to them, or if I did. I don’t know if I ever wrote her back. I don’t suppose so. I sadly simply don’t remember. But seeing the letters – not dozens, like she was trying to compensate for something, or like we never actually spoke, just a few – reminded me of those days I’d come in and find the letters on my bed. The memory fills me with the knowledge that I was loved. Now, 20 years later, I remember them, and I read them now that she’s gone, and I am still filled with the knowledge of that love. And that is a powerful gift.
Sure, my girls can go through the thousands of photographs I have of them, and they can read through half a decade’s worth of blog posts, but I still think there’s something beautiful and positive and affirming about a hand written letter.
We’ve just moved house, and after a tough and trying week, one evening my girls wanted to go through their memory boxes – two collapsible boxes, nothing fancy – filled with trinkets and bits and pieces from their births onwards. They have Aviya’s placenta art, a newspaper from the day Ameli was born, their first birthday outfits, Ameli’s first Christmas dress, Aviya’s first outfit, a receiving blanket, most loved baby toys, things like that, in them. They wanted to go through them, and while they were looking through these snippets from their short lives I recognised something in the children that I feel when I read my mom’s letters. The knowledge that you are loved. That someone cared enough to save things from a time before you understood the value of it*.
The boxes also contain every birthday card from their maternal great grandmother, and from their paternal grandparents. The truth is they may not grow up to know these people who love them so much, because time is cruel, but they will grow up knowing that they were loved and cared about. A sense of belonging to a lineage greater than just what they know.
Thinking about all this reminded me of my great grandmother. I was in my early 20’s when she died aged 91, but for many years, we’d get a bank bag of pennies from her for our birthdays. Even back then it really didn’t amount to too much, but I knew that she saved those, thinking of us every time she dropped one in the proverbial jar. The knowledge that we were thought of and loved as evidenced by the time it took to collect a bag of pennies each, the sense of knowing that we were loved for longer than our own memories can recall. It’s not nothing.
So, I’d like to encourage you. Yes, by all means continue to communicate through text messages or notes on a chalkboard, or lunch box love notes or whatever way works for you and your loved ones, but once in a while, write a love note to your children. Provide a space for it to be saved. One day those become cherished memories.
*That’s not to say that if you didn’t you don’t care. Different strokes and all .