Today we received a letter from my Dad in the UK.
Without wishing to do him an injustice, he is rather an ‘old fashioned’ kind of guy. He doesn’t deal with Facebook, E-mails, Skype or for that matter, telephones!
His only request before we left was that the kids should write him a ‘good old fashioned handwritten letter’. He promised to reply if we stayed at a campsite for long enough.
During the second week of our adventure – on a rare rainy day, I suggested that the kids should write that letter to their Grandad.
With a few huffs and puffs (writing is not Jonah’s favourite thing to do), they sat down quietly to pen their thoughts and recall their experiences. I told them they could also add a secret or two. I wanted this to be a personal communication between two Grandchildren and their Grandad.
When I held their crumpled letters in my hand and folded them into the envelope to send, I could not remember the last time I had sent a personal letter in the post. It felt good.
As I prepared to slip the envelope into the post box it evoked a lovely feeling. I was aware that this very inexpensive gift; containing personal little anecdotes and secrets, would bring great pleasure to a man who had hoped, but was not expecting his simple request to be granted.
The envelope arrived safely in the UK and we were told that he would refrain from opening it until the evening of his birthday. I can imagine the anticipation of seeing a letter waiting on a mantelpiece.
Two weeks later as Chris collected our early morning French Baguette from Reception, he was informed that a letter had arrived for us.
I am not sure who was more excited by the handwritten envelope – me or the kids!
Admittedly, they had some trouble reading Grandad’s handwriting. It reminded me very much of my Nan Murphy’s lovely old flowing script – sadly no longer taught, nor encouraged.
Chris read the letters aloud. In them, my Dad had made reference to his own Grandfather and his love of fishing. He thought his Grandfather would have been proud of Jonah’s tenacity with a fishing rod. He spoke of his love of history and his desire to visit the World War Battlefields, amongst other sentiments.
The ease with which my Dad’s communication flowed was a lovely surprise. I was delighted to learn that he was a capable and charming letter-writer.
Isn’t that sad? That I am 39 years old and it took me to travel thousands of miles away to learn that my Dad has a passion for writing…
He would not mind me saying that he is a man of few words. I can honestly say that he spoke more effortlessly and openly in those letters than he has ever done in person.
If I had known that about him earlier, I think I would have been more inclined to put pen to paper sooner. Why should the gift of letter-writing be dictated by miles or distance?
It should not matter if the recipient is sat beside you. If a letter has the power to open a new channel of communication, make things easier – why not embrace it?
There is also something so incredibly personal and endearing about a handwritten letter. They hold far more than the scrawls of ink…
A letter can hold memories, a warm embrace, a subtle handshake, a sincere apology, a shared blessing…an opportunity to express one’s self without reserve.
I am so lucky that I have a husband who has always sent me letters. Our love was founded and cemented in writing. Our most prized possessions are three shoe boxes full of old letters tethered together by brown string – now stored safely for our children to one day inherit. Whilst we will probably never read them again, I hope that Lola and Jonah will appreciate the gift of these love letters without the necessity, nor duty of replying.
I hope they will learn something about their parents too; especially their father – for he will always be my favourite Author. His ability to describe, explain or declare his inner thoughts on paper will always be a deeply personal memoir of our life together, even after we are gone.
The arrival of my Dad’s letter has awoken something in both of us. I shall be writing back, together with the kids, and will continue to do so. It is never too late to learn more about someone you think you already know.
It doesn’t matter if you live with them or have not seen them in a long time. Sending a loved-one a letter on an ordinary day, for no reason other than to let them know you care, is a gift within all of us.