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.
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.