We’ve been sorting stuff here. Boxes of stuff that has lived in the basement for almost a quarter century. Today I worked through several boxes of books, most of which I donated to our local library for their regular book sale.
And then there was the box of ‘office supplies.’
Most of what was in there turned out to be the dregs of my desk, emptied when I left the employment of a bank back in 1992. A rolodex filled with Realtor business cards, phone numbers to county water departments, tax offices, appraisers. Old business cards of my own, a clock, pens. Spent rubber bands.
And down at the bottom was a hanging file containing a pile of letters from my mother.
I’ve only read a couple, both from the mid 90’s. They’re nothing extraordinary, filled with weather and what’s blooming, lake temperatures and levels, birds she’d seen. Baby ducks. Many of them are handwritten, though in later years when she learned that newfangled word processor called a personal computer they began to be typed.
When I was a kid I watched my mom write a postcard to her mother every week. Tiny little script filling up every inch of the postcard surface. Often she ran the last sentence up the side of the card. There are a few postcards to me in the file too, completely covered in her writing.
I don’t have to read them all to feel good. Just seeing her handwriting makes me smile.
I know that eventually I should sort them out, maybe get them into a binder for easier reading. But suddenly that seems too hard. I’ve been scanning family pictures for days. Her face and the faces of all of us are everywhere I look, spread across the table, entrenched in the back of my eyes. Such young faces, all of us, even mom and dad.
We were all so young.
And now here are her letters and it feels as though she and dad are just off somewhere on vacation. That I’ll get another letter in the mailbox next week or the week after that, sharing the latest trip, the daffodils in bloom now, the bluebirds building in the nest box down by the water. Even now, eleven years later, when I go out to the mailbox there’s that little bit of anticipation about what might be there.
But now I have this treasure trove of letters.
I’m glad I kept them, and I’ll read them all again someday. It’s not the same of course. But it’s not overtly sad, just tinged a bit with wistfulness. I know I’m lucky she was a letter writer and I’m a saver. It’s good to see her handwriting, it’s almost like hearing her speak.