Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Letters

In my closet there's a large flowered tin that formerly held popcorn. It now holds all the letters and cards that my husband and I sent to each other in the two years that we dated and were engaged before we were married. We never lived in the same city, and usually not even the same state. I only checked my e-mail at the university library once a week, and I don't think he even had an account. We talked frequently on the phone (except when I was working at camp), yet we still wrote letters. They are crammed informally into the tin; the ones I wrote on one side, the letters he wrote on the other - although they do get mixed up occasionally. They aren't remotely in chronological order. My husband suggested that we should burn them before The May Queen is old enough to read them. I insist that we just need to hide them really well. Although they are usually tucked in the back behind my shoes they do get hauled out when we're picking the things we want to save from impending hurricanes. And occasionally I find myself sitting on the floor, usually right there in the closet, randomly picking them out and getting a glimpse at the people we were those many years ago: thoughtful and mooning and learning about each other more and more each day. Two people in discovery.

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Twelve years ago I threw a box of letters away. It was chock full of letters written to me from my high school boyfriend. We had met at camp and began our friendship writing long letters - "epistles," as he called them. We kept it up after we began dating. The letters were long and often took us days to write. When I put the letters in the trash I was moving out of my apartment upon my college graduation. My wedding was a mere three weeks away. I hadn't read the letters in a long time, and when I came across them as I was packing up I hesitated. I knew that getting rid of them was the right thing to do, and to this day I don't regret it. I do, however, regret that I didn't try to return them to the sender. It would have been awkward, surely, but we were still friends. Heck, he was probably busy packing up his frat room across campus at the same time. He may not have wanted them, but as I think back on it I wish that I had the letters that I had written - not as a record of our relationship but as a record of who I was for that year in time.

19 comments:

the dragonfly said...

An interesting thought, wishing you had the letters you wrote to that old boyfriend. Since I used to be much better at keeping a journal than I am now, and I often copied the letters I wrote (especially to old boyfriends!) into my journals, I kind of do, but I never really thought of it that way.

My favorite old letters like that are the ones the Sergeant wrote to me when he was in Basic Training. Sure, we'd already been married for over a year, but we'd never before been so completely separated. The letters we wrote...they were literally a lifeline. (believe it or not, he even got some colored pencils and drew me pictures!!!!)

Chrissy said...

That box is definitely a treasure worth saving in a hurricane. I have journals and a few letters from before I was married, and I love reading the letters from my husband. The letters from me make me cringe, but it is neat to look back on what I was like at that time.

Kat said...

I'm glad you kept your husband's letters. Those are such a treasure. :)

I actually have a ton of letters from two of my old boyfriends, but they are at my mother's house. Most of them just make me laugh, but all of them remind me of who I was when I was younger.

Aunt Becky said...

I've thrown all of my notes from old boyfriends away. But they were not letters, just notes. And I don't regret it. Probably because they were just drivel.

Beck said...

I remember ritualistically getting ride of every single thing that any ex-boyfriend had ever given me - although I held onto all of the notes and letters and cards that my now-husband had ever given me. Which was a sign, now that I'm thinking about it.

ewe are here said...

It's really lovely that you and your husband saved all your old letters...

I have a couple of boxes of various correspondence... suppose I should go through and purge it one of these days. ;-)

Amy Y said...

I'm glad you didn't burn them ~ I think one day MQ will want to have them. I'd love to see a record of my parents' relationship blooming... I love reading old letters that Shawn and I exchanged.

jen said...

we turned a number of our letters into a scrapbook - for us and for M.

but i too recently got rid of a bunch of old (other) letters and i do think i'll regret that one day.

flutter said...

I am so glad that you want to remember, I spend so much time trying to forget

E said...

I have pitched and I have kept. The letters from my husband and I to one another always get saved. There is lots of dirty dancing in them along the way, and some marital wrangling, but there is also the history of a long marriage well made and I don't think our kids could be anything but blessed when they read them... probably after we are dead and they are cleaning out the junk.
But I too pitched stuff tfrom other lives...although not all of it. I kept some as you say for the record. It is just part of the history.
And your kids will be blessed by what you do keep

Magpie said...

I think there's a box of letter - tied up with string - from a high school boyfriend, still parked in the closet of my childhood bedroom. I should go find those. I wonder what ever happened to him...

MamaGeek @ Works For Us said...

I'm glad you didn't burn them. What treasures. I still have mine too but have NO idea WHERE they are. How sad is THAT!

Mary G said...

How lucky you are. I have one letter from my husband of 46 (almost) years. It dates from the one period we were apart for more than a week.
I threw out my high school diary though. Too cringe making.
You had better tape the tin when your daughter is a teenager; my kids even found their dad's stash of 'how to' sex books.
I'm still laughing about that one.

imbeingheldhostage said...

I'm really pleased that this crossed your mind. We had a house fire where we lost everything-- journals, photo albums etc. I would've LOVED for someone to give me some of my old letters after that. One year after four or five moves, I thought that saving every letter from my sister was silly so I bound them in a pretty book and sent it to her. Her husband said it was "the weirdest thing to do" for someone. ouch. Hearing you say that it was something you might consider makes me feel that maybe he's the weird one.

Kyla said...

I have no letters between Josh and I, but I do have lots of notes we passed back and forth in high school. They are QUITE entertaining.

Alex Elliot said...

I saved all the letters between my husband and I. I think it's because my family and I hardly know anything about my grandfather who passed away about 30 years ago and only a little more about my grandmother. We always wish that there were some letters to give us a glimpse as to who they were and how they felt about each other because to all of us, they didn't seem well matched. I like the idea of my letters being a record of who I am.

womaninawindow said...

Hum, that second part is really thoughtful and full of reflection. I've never thought of having my letters back. I'd be rather embarassed as I was wont to fall in love quite a bit.

KEEP YOUR HUSBAND'S LETTERS! NEVA throw them out! Please, just keep 'em.

Louise said...

You are so right! I hope you have something that tells who you were.

I have letters I sent to family (parents, aunts and cousins) at key times in my life which tell me who I was. Those are priceless to me.

I'm glad you didn't throw away the letters you and your husband wrote to each other. When the May Queen is old enough, she will treasure them. I found letters recently that my parents wrote to each other when dating. My mother passed away two years ago, and those are priceless now.

Sober Briquette said...

I would do the same thing - go looking for something in the closet and end up sitting on the floor for an hour. Definitely do not get rid of them! It's really cool that you have both sets, too.

One year a friend of mine lived in Italy and we wrote to each other several times. I have often wished I had my letters to her back; I have the sense that I wrote some important, insightful things at that time.

One thing Tony and I used to do was write notes on the back of small jigsaw puzzles. We have a few of those kicking around still.