Friday, May 21, 2010
These stacks of paper represent 21 years of my life. My husband and I moved to Ecuador, South America in 1981. I was 6 1/2 months pregnant; our eldest daughter was born 2 months after our arrival. There was no internet. The tiny jungle hamlet we lived in had one phone that rarely worked and a call to Canada cost more than $5.00 per minute. Letter writing was our contact with home.
I wrote letters constantly. Long epistles to our parents, chronicling for them the daily routines and the small milestones of their grandchildren's lives, the sometimes funny and sometimes tragic clashes with culture, and the joys and sorrows of everyday life. Shorter, less frequent letters were written to siblings and friends. I wrote at least one letter, or part of a letter, every day.
Receiving letters was the most exciting part of my day. I walked down to the plaza first carrying a baby, then holding a toddler's hand to ask Noemi, the postmistress, if there was any mail. When I saw my mother's handwriting, or my mother-in-law's, I knew I had a treat in store. They wrote long newsy letters back, filling us in on the world that was so very far away.
I didn't keep the letters I received. I wish I had. But a few years ago, Tim's mom told me that she had all my letters. Last summer she gave them to me. Over a period of several months, I took them out one by one and read them, remembering, laughing, crying. Memories and emotions rushed back through time. I read things that had passed from my conscious memory.
Even after I started emailing instead of writing, Mum printed out the emails and kept them. These letters are a treasure to me. My children think I should write a book about our life there. And maybe, some day I will. It would be something for my grandchildren to know how their parents were raised, so far away, in a land so different from Canada.
Today in the UK is National Letter Writing Day. It's a lost art, but one that has value. Do you have letters you're keeping?