A few weeks ago, I had some down-time until my new contract with Bridge Partners Consulting was signed. Rich recommended I work on one of the many projects I’d been putting off.
I decided to tackle the two large boxes of cards and letters I’d been accumulating since I was a kid. Plus, after my mother passed away, I added her collected correspondence to the boxes. It took several days to sort the cards into piles based on the sender or context, such as people I knew from work. It was then easy to sort the piles into smaller piles and put a rubber band around each stack of cards with a stickie note, indicating the sender or topic.
While I didn’t save any space, I eliminated correspondences, which were no longer meaningful. Plus, I had the enjoyment of reflecting on cards from people who passed away, and recall relationships with people from school, work, where I lived, and had met doing civic and social activities. It was a bittersweet trip down memory lane.
One of the stacks of letters came from Barb, who along with her husband Dan, step-daughter Marcia, and grandson, Ryan, lease our Mount Vernon house. Barb writes on lined, yellow legal paper with large, cursive handwriting with lots of exclamation marks, looped letters, and an occasional happy face.
In her last letter, she wrote, “You know why letters are so special – you can hold them, read them like no other messages.” Very true, and why I still have two large boxes of correspondence!
Can’t Go Home Again
When I was in elementary school, my best friend was Sue L. Not only was she extremely smart, but funny and full of life. It was devastating when her family moved to Brazil because of her father’s work. We corresponded for a year and a half, with her sending me amazing “multi-media” letters, filled with clippings from magazines, drawings she made, goofy snippets of jokes and questionnaires she created, and other bits of interesting minutiae.
I suspect it was me who broke off the correspondence, overwhelmed with school, babysitting, and the daily hours of chores my mother delegated to me from cooking dinner to gardening and canning produce on weekends. In addition, I never found a friend to replace her. Getting her letters reminded me of what I’d lost.
I had a large stack of her letters, and because she had an unusual name, I looked her up on the Internet. And was surprised it took me minutes to track her down. She’d earned a master’s degree in graphic design, and for the past 35 years was a creative director for a publication in Washington, D.C.
Excited, I sent an email to her at work, inquiring if she was the Sue that I knew from Wilbur Avenue Elementary School. She responded with three words, “Yes, that’s me.”
Filled with joy, the next day, I sent her a lengthier email, asking about her life, and providing a summary of mine.
Crickets. Days passed. Crickets.
So, I put all the letters in an envelope, wrote on a slip of paper, “You might enjoy reading these” then dashed to the post office to mail it to her.
Sometimes you can’t re-kindle a relationship and it’s best not to look back, or as Tom Wolfe named his novel, “You Can’t Go Home Again.”
One of the largest stacks of cards was from Wendy S. who I’ve known for decades. We met at a Chamber of Commerce event. At the time, she was doing marketing for a hospice in Hillsboro, OR and I worked across the street, doing marketing for the hospital, which was part of Tuality Healthcare.
I was enthralled by her enthusiasm and confidence. She pushed through challenges while I lamented my misfortunes. Obviously, opposites attract even when it comes to friendships.
She was the maid-of-honor at my wedding and helped me weather the “Texas” years by sending me wonderful cards filled with warm thoughts and inspirational messages. The cards she sent included ones she made herself, using photos she’d taken. She also sent me cards by Mary Englebriet, my favorite modern artist (outside of the toilet paper shreddings created by avant garde artist Lolitta).
I cherish her cards and friendship and am glad I have a stack of cards to refresh my memory of our times together.
When my grandmother, Rose Ridnor, was alive, I remember going through several of her scrap books and removing the vintage cards. During my card-sorting, I was able to gather these old cards into one pile, and then sort them by recipient. Some were from my mother’s and uncle’s birthdays. A couple were love “letters” between my grandparents.
I found several, which were signed by my cousin Bobby’s mother and sent them to him, so he had copies of her handwriting. In addition, I found a wedding invitation to my mother’s brother’s wedding in the 1950’s, along with some cute correspondences from a niece to my mother. These cards I sent to another cousin, Jeanne.
In addition, I found letters from an uncle who was stationed in the Middle East during World War II. There was also a ration book and several postcards from foreign countries
Check out the pictures from my card sort!