There were at least two inspirations for this slice. I’ve linked to both of them. One came from an Amanda Potts Persistence and Pedagogy’s post on Sunday in which she unearthed a piece of prose from her past. Please pardon the plethora of Ps. The second was from KimHaynesJohnson’s Common Threads blog where she wrote these words: “I go back to that moment again and again in my mind still today, ever assured that this was the first time I identified as a writer – and more specifically, a writer who wanted to see the world.”
Amanda’s post made me remember some letters I had written as a child, and Kim’s post made me wonder about when I had started to think of myself as a writer. I discovered an interesting convergence.
About 20 years ago, when I was finally clearing out the closet in my childhood home, after about 20 years of pleading from my mom, I found a crate full of letters. I come from a family of savers. My father saved wine bottle corks, rubber bands, twist ties, and rusty nails. He came by it honestly. His father not only saved bent nails, but he melted down the metal sleeves of wine bottles and created uniform weights out of them. So, I guess it was natural that I had saved every letter I’d received. In Kim’s post, she mentioned that she still sends actual mail from her travels, saying, “How else will my grandchildren know the joy of getting mail if I don’t send them postcards?” She’s right.
As I was rifling through all the letters I’d received, my mom mentioned that she still had a bunch of the letters that I’d sent home from camp. I knew she had saved my letters, but on this day, I was excited to hear that. Back then, my fourth grade students had a regular assignment on Fridays to write a letter home to their parents. I was sure that my own vintage letters were going to be great exemples to share with my class. Then I started reading.
I was underwhelmed.
I kept the letters (of course), and even shared some with my class, but not as examples of great writing. Instead they were more for comedic effect. Mine were written when I had finished 6th grade. “You see,” I’d say, “that’s what we call progress. You all are writing much better letters in fourth grade than I wrote in 6th grade.”
I dug out some of those letters and revisited them yesterday. Maybe I’m getting less judgemental or a bit more forgiving in my old age, but this time I felt like I was seeing them through a different lens. Here’s the one that caught my eye:
Looking at these words today, I have these wonderings and observations:
It’s been almost 50 years since I hiked it, but I can still clearly see that mossy carpet that led us up Mt. Herbert. Was it that brook or the writing about it that burned the scene into my memory bank?
Even though my writing didn’t quite do justice to that scene, I think this may have been the first time in my life that I desperately wanted my words to make someone see what I saw that day. I didn’t carry a camera with me on hiking trips. Words were my only tool.
The fact that my mom saved my letters does not surprise me now that I’ve been a parent and have an attic full of art and writing projects created by my daughters. But as a kid, knowing that she read my letters, responded to them, and saved them made me feel like my words had value.
Maybe it was in these letters that I found the need to write, the challenge of writing and the satisfaction of creating something that someone else appreciated.
Finally, I still love a lemon meringue pie, but if I tried to eat three-fourths in one sitting, I do not think that I would be “feeling fine.”