by the letter

The end of summer was always exciting when I was younger. It meant that friends were returning from vacation and camp, and even though school would be starting soon, play dates would resume. Despite the fact that many of my friends spent the hot months away, we always kept in touch. Because when I was young, we still wrote letters.

My dad was a letter writer himself.  I have a stack of letters he exchanged with his aunt in Germany, and always loved examining the stamps when they arrived.

IMG_20130818_155019_586And when I entered high school, I could always look forward to summer letters from my best friend Jen (who my dad called Beethoven). She abandoned me for summer camp, but I could always count on post cards and long letters filled with gossip to keep me company.  We continued this into adulthood. Though we live far apart and don’t get to see each other often, we drop each other a line, especially for birthdays.  Recently, when cleaning out my office, I found an envelope from her addressed to “Insanity Surveys Inc.” with my address. It was a survey I sent her when I was bored at work in 2005, with crazy questions like “If you were a bird, what bird would you be?” (for which she chose cockatoo).

IMG_20130818_155216_020

My friend Season and I exchange letters too. How we got in the habit  I don’t quite know. Our letters to each other are rambling, and they often are simple updates on our lives. Recently the Man and I received a package from her and a card. Inside the package, everything was blue. It had a special meaning that I’ll keep to myself, and I love her for it. It’s packages and surprise notes like that which make a day brighter.

IMG_20130818_154707_537

With email and texts and Facebook, choosing to sit and write a letter usually goes by the wayside for most of us. I wonder if kids even have pen pals anymore. So here is my offer to you. Do you want a letter? or a pen pal? E-mail your address to writercat81@gmail.com and I’ll send you a letter.

don’t open until 2004…

In some ways we were lucky that the previous owner decided to leave so many things in the house.  Among the dilapidated couches that we ended up throwing out and the pet stained carpets that had outworn their welcome, they also left an upright piano which I love and cherish.  And they also left some furniture in one of the bedrooms.  As we were moving the furniture outside to rehab it, one of our friends found a standard size envelope, addressed to one of the people who had lived in our house before us.

Inside was a letter, written by one of the girls who had lived there, from 2001, her freshman year in high school.  Seven pages long, written on notebook paper in green gel pen in bubbly print. It opens “Dear My Senior Self”. Whether it was a school assignment, a friendship pact to write the letters together, or a personal adventure, I’ll never know.   It was postmarked June 11, 2004.

She asks about certain people she went to school with – whether they’re still friends, whether she still keeps in touch with teachers, who she ended up dating and kissing or whether she ever “did it” with a certain person.  She wonders how the whole “eating disorder thing is going” and whether she ever made 120 pounds or wore a bikini and met hot guys at the shore. She even asks herself if she did anything during band camp.

She goes on to talk about classes she liked, teachers she hated, and lists the phone numbers of people she MUST keep in touch with. I wonder if she ever did. If she opened this letter in her senior year, or perhaps in college, and laughed at her childish spelling and handwriting, wondered why she was so curious about her sex-life-to-be. I wonder if she ever did make size 5 or 120 pounds, and if she did make out with the cute guy on the color guard team. But I’ll never know.

me, circa 2003What I do know, is I remember myself at that age. So innocent, so optimistic, a large group of friends that I thought would be around forever.  I still know their phone numbers, without having written a letter to myself, and despite the fact that I haven’t dialed some of them in 10 years or more. I thought that in high school my awkwardness would somehow dissolve, that I’d have my first kiss, and that I would be going to an ivy league school.

I wish I had written a letter like this to myself. Maybe it would have captured some of my own innocence and dreams that I had for my future. Sometimes it seems that when my father died my freshman year, I lost something of my youth. I lost some of those dreams, or they were just forgotten, never cataloged in a journal on a personal checklist of goals.

I wonder why the girl left the letter behind. Maybe she put it on top of the bureau and forgot about it, or maybe after reading it she didn’t have the heart to throw it out but didn’t want to remember it either. What I do know, is that I now write letters to friends that I haven’t spoken to since I was a teenager, and may never find or speak to again. I reminisce on what we did when we were teenagers, wonder what they’re doing, and tell them why I miss them.

And I fold them up, put them in envelopes, and store them away in a box. Maybe some day I’ll sit and read them.