I save everything, and lots of that is useless sentimental stuff to let go of, but I guard the box of letters. Over the years so much of our family history has made its way into that old file box. Rummaging through it, I instantly recognize the handwriting of so many- Andy's mother, my father, my camp counselor, my old friends. Reading their letters is a bit of time travel back to that day or week or year- so much information, minutia and encrypted memory there.
I miss writing letters. I miss my own handwriting, something I once took such pride in. I remember spending an entire day practicing a certain slant, drawing letters and relearning a new signature. For 13 or more years my dear camp counselor, Betty and I wrote to each other. With illustrations, exclamations and dramatic underlines, I laid out my entire angst-ridden teen life for her dissection and her teacher's mentoring words in response carried me through many a confused moment. In later years, I sent stories of college, Andy, the babies and their drawings. If she had saved the letters I wrote to her........ well, I'm glad I at least have hers.
In our spare room is a vintage glass vanity lamp with my dusty handmade shade. I made it years ago using an old clip-on lampshade skeleton found at the thrift. Re-covered with copies of old letters from my save box, it always makes me stop and look when I turn it on. There is Betty....and Tom....and Holly. Each panel a different part of a letter, from a different part of my life.
As I remember, it was pretty easy and quick to make. Copy, cut and whipstitch lace the trimmed paper pieces onto the wire shade form with raffia threaded into a big needle. Maybe not the sturdiest structure, but surely the most interesting. A recent houseguest declared the lamp his favorite handmade thing in the whole house.
Tonight on the eve of this incredible moment in history, I plan to write a letter to each of my girls. I want to consider through words and the act of careful handwriting what we are thinking about today, the excitement and hope for their future, the spectacular promise of Barack Obama.
I envy those heading to the Inauguration even though the snow continues to fall. I won't be there, but it's a good day to get out the pen and a blank sheet. Write a letter. Something for them to unfold someday, something for their save box.