Sitting with some friends the other night we got on the subject of letters. (Geez, can’t imagine how THAT came up!) They asked me how the project was going and whether or not I had come up with a thesis. (Clearly they are not reading my blog!) I told them how this has become a drawing project, but that I was still interrogating the process as it did not seem to be satisfactory to me yet.
One of my friends talked about how after her mother died she went through her things and found all of the letters her father had sent to her mother during the course of their relationship. She then went into her mother’s email and found the correspondence between her mother and father there as well. I asked what she planned to do with the letters and the emails and she said she was going to print out some of the emails and keep them with the letters, but she did not know what for exactly, it was just something she wanted to keep.
My other friend at the table said that she can remember her mother sending her long scathing letters about all of the things that she and her family were doing wrong! She said it had turned her off of writing letters entirely! And, she IS a writer!
Besides wondering what kind of therapy my kids will need because of the “out loud” way their artist mother lives, I began to think of the letters I have kept during my life.
I remember when I bought a house, my mother shipped out roughly 13 boxes of “memories” she had been storing for me for the last several decades. Just when I thought I had enough storage space for my current life’s activities, along came UPS with roughly 13 boxes too many to store!
Contained in those boxes were, in no particular order: childhood stuffed animals, some of MY baby clothes, every single card my mom received when she was pregnant with me and after I was born, including the little cards that come with flowers, an assortment of photographs in both black & white and Kodachrome color. Prom dresses, bridesmaid dresses, (I am more than set with taffeta dresses, thank you!) knick-knacks, costume jewelry and cards she had sent to me when I was in college (Had I saved those?), cards my Dad had sent me (A rarity so I know I saved those!), notes girlfriends and I had passed to each other during class in high school, and all of the LOVE LETTERS I had received since 3rd grade!
I threw most of it away! I also came to regret that decision, but my husband at the time was very intense about my not having more storage space than he did, so I had to whittle things down significantly! The things I regretted throwing away the most were the letters.
To this day, the only letters I have saved, except for a few from my mom and dad, are the ones from my ex-husband, my kids’ father. I thought it was important that I be able to show my kids, and to remember myself, that there was a time when we really loved each other. I still can’t read them, even after 3 years divorced, but knowing that I have them is enough.
I think letters have the trace of the writer’s energy on them, their mark, their mind. They are the drawn word.