From the time I went away to college at age 18 until shortly before her death when I was 30, my mother wrote me letters.
I saved every one of them.
Today e-mail, cell phones, Skype, texts, face chat, social media, and Instagrams connect people in ways I never dreamed possible when I went to college. Now families and loved ones can share their thoughts, experiences, and questions in real time when they're separated. Young adults have a 24/7 electronic lifeline to their parents, siblings, friends
Not so long ago, leaving home meant limited contact with those you left behind. In college, I shared a single pay phone with about 50 other girls on my dorm floor. Long distance calls were expensive and time on the phone was limited. There were no answering machines or voice mail, no way to leave a message. We relied on the post office to carry news to and from home. Trips to the mailbox were filled with anticipation, all of us desperate for a letter or two.
My mother's letters were in a category of their own. I kept them safely stored in chronological order for decades. My parents died within weeks of each other when I was 30, and at times the grief was overwhelming. While I was comforted by the knowledge that I had all my mother's letters to me, I couldn't bring myself to open the box where they were stored. It was 12 years before I could bear displaying a photo of my mother in my house, and it's taken even longer for me to feel I could revisit her letters with joy, not sadness.
The time has finally come to re-read them. Today I begin a journey of love and remembrance, a tribute and memorial to my mother and the home I left behind as revealed in her letters.
I've started this online journal with nothing more concrete in mind than documenting my experience of reading these letters not as the young adult who received them but as a mature woman and mother of two teenagers. While I don't have a plan other than to follow my heart and my Muse, it's safe to expect something resembling my usual mix of writing, photography, art, and poetry.
Let's see where these letters take me, what they reveal and inspire.
Did you grow up during the age of letter writing? Do you have any that you've saved?