It began a simple…Happy Birthday!
I found myself writing a love letter.
Words flowed, quickly filling both sides of the card. Summertime spent with my aunts and uncles. Begging for someone to take me to play in the magical, deep bed of Baird’s creek, eating rhubarb raw dipped in sugar, playing dress up under the maple tree, washing the boys’ car and a generous dose of teasing. Every summer, for that one week, I was the little sister in a big noisy family.
Love letters have come my way over the years and I have a collection of treasured notes and cards tucked inside my cookbooks, a tradition my mother started. When I still lived with my parents at home, I enjoyed seeing the childlike images of homemade cards from my sister and I that she had saved in her cookbooks, along with those received from my father and others. It made me realize that these gestures from us mattered to her and she wanted to enjoy them over and over.
The cards in my Betty Crocker, with the familiar red and white checked binder date back to the year I graduated high school. A small homemade layered valentine from my grandma on my father’s side. A playful studio card from my sister at age 17. The note began with “not much has happened in one day”, but the short stories filled it, inside and out. Her comical note covered everything from the trials of attempting to cut our poodle's hair, the number of layers she wore to school to keep warm, and her irritation with our neighbor across the street.
A one-line note on a half sheet of mint green paper from my dad that I’ll keep forever is also in my Betty Crocker. It accompanied a set of silverware which was in it’s original slotted box, grandma's paper towels tucked inside as extra protection. A fifty year old wedding gift being passed down to me. “Happy birthday, Laurel, Love Mom and Dad.” Those simple words spoke volumes. He knew how much I would treasure the heirloom.
Funny cards with funny notes and sentimental cards with X’s and O’s. Handmades and Hallmarks from my children and my romantic husband. Another card in my cookbook is from a hospice patient, Helen, I visited for a few months many years ago. She welcomed me each visit, “hello, lady in red!” the pleasure she found in my candy apple velvet, 3” platform sandals. Towards the end of her life, she mailed me a card with a sweet note inside. It was a keeper. I tucked it in my cookbook. Years later, I was looking for a recipe for rice stuffing. There it was. Perfectly timed: “An Eastertime greeting especially to say that someone is thinking about you today!” More than a memory of her, brought back to life. Pure magic.
Was Pollyanna on to something? What if there was a deliberate, steady stream of ‘love letters’ flowing in all our circles, all the matrixes of community? These letters could take many forms, have many faces. They could be texts, e-mails, voice mails, snail mails, or notes left in random places. They could be to people we know or people we knew. Those we work with or live with. People we are grateful for...who bring a smile to our face just thinking of them. We can be direct, or not even use traditional ‘love language’. We can pay love forward with a ‘thank you’ in the memo when paying our bills.
This feels risky. It takes courage, speaking love talk. The risk of embarrassment, wearing your heart on your sleeve. What does love make possible? Should we try it? Are you in?