I have attachments to many things– for good or bad, it is the truth. I know we leave this world with nothing, but it is comforting to have certain objects around to remind me of people, places, and moments of my life.
Today I think of a letter that I keep in the bottom drawer of an old chest in my bedroom. My mom wrote it to me twenty-nine years ago. I had just started teaching and was feeling so overwhelmed. I was a nervous wreck. She was out of town visiting my sister. She could hear the panic in my voice when I called her to relate all that was on my mind during those days, I guess, because she sat down and wrote me a real letter, not just some words on a card, but a real honest to goodness letter that I still go back and read to this day when I need a pick me up or a good sense of direction.
The letter is written on 5×7 scratch pad paper, and it is yellowed now from age, making it all the more precious to me. It is not something I keep on display because it is a private, special piece of my mom’s heart, pouring itself out to me on the page. I know where it is, and I do not keep it put away to hide it, but to keep it safe.
Written in simple cursive handwriting that she often lamented because “shorthand ruined it” according to her, I see how carefully she wrote this message to me. It begins with “Hi doll,” — a nickname that only she has ever called me. She had several nicknames for me because she knew I disliked my first name for so long. Reading this greeting again, knowing she is gone now, is even sweeter to me. I can hear her voice.
She reminds me to “save something for another day” and while she was always reminding me to save money, she wasn’t talking about that then. She was telling me to do what I could and remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. She reminds me to say Jesus help me and see how good that makes me feel. She was right as usual. She cautions against pleasing people, worrying too much, and working too hard. She knew me well. She reminds me to have fun, to buy something nice for myself. She talks about plans of things for us to look forward to when she comes home.
I read that letter today and know that her advice is as timely as ever. It is actually some of the same advice I give to new student teacher interns each year. It is advice I’ve given to my own children and friends.
Words on a page. That is my favorite thing today.