My 2012 resolution of writing one letter per week for a year is coming to a close. Truthfully, I was not able to complete the task of 52 letters, but I wrote a lot more than in previous attempts, and for that I will congratulate myself.
I have conversed with a few Dublin Life readers who took the challenge, and we agree that it was wonderful to reconnect with old friends, express gratitude to former teachers and divulge feelings to precious family members in their golden years. For those of us who find it easier to put pen to paper than come up with the proper words face to face, this exercise in letter writing overflowed with life lessons.
Jenny Patton of Dublin originally envisioned contacting 52 different people from her past but instead found herself exchanging letters with a smaller group. “I didn’t anticipate everyone writing back and of course I wanted to continue corresponding since it is such a special way to connect,” Jenny says.
Her new pen pals include two cousins in Los Angeles, a college roommate in South Carolina, two colleagues from a writer’s conference and several friends who lost parents or siblings this year. “I’m so grateful for this challenge as I feel we are reclaiming a lost art and renewing our friendships at the same time,” Jenny says.
Angie O’Brien should win a prize for carving out time every Sunday for correspondence and never missing a week. She says that everyone she penned took the time to write her back and not one note went unanswered. Angie’s first letter was to her grandfather “Papa,” Norval DePaul.
“I told my papa how proud I was of him for being a Marine in World War II, and how blessed I was to be his granddaughter,” says Angie. “It meant a lot to him and to me because Papa passed away four months after receiving my message.”
I had a similar experience this year when I sent a missive to my Uncle Walt. I recollected staying at his home and traversing Washington, D.C. on my own when I was only 13. I was armed with a map, a few dollars and some phone numbers, which I used after I found a phone booth. We both got a kick out of the absurdity of a 13-year-old let loose on the Metro and agreed it wouldn’t be allowed today. Unfortunately, my uncle was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer the next month and passed away in October, but I know he appreciated sharing memories and laughter through our correspondence.
By reaching out to our elders, we can learn about family history and maybe even some hidden secrets. Angie’s grandma, Rose, wrote a 10-page letter outlining their family tree and informing her of a safe concealed under the floorboards of her Florida house. One of the buried treasures was a diamond that Rose gifted to Angie, which Angie has since set into a custom ring that she wears every day.
The easiest letters I found to write were those of gratitude. I feel blessed in so many ways, and to reach back into the past and thank the people who have added knowledge and grace to my life was rewarding. At one point in time, I had three children under age 6, and there was an important person in my life who was as calm as I was frazzled. Jill Roshon is the owner and director of Dublin Montessori Academy and she helped a D’Angelo child out of the carpool line for eight straight years.
Although time has flown by, my children still have great memories of preschool and kindergarten, and they continue to have a love of learning. I wanted to relay to Mrs. Roshon how special she was to us and the enormous impact DMA had on our family. My son, Christopher, even wrote his college essay on the benefits of a Montessori education and letting the child lead at his or her own pace.
To my delight, Mrs. Roshon wrote back after re-reading my letter three times and said that I “pulled the years together for her just like a purse string.” I’ve always thought of Mrs. Roshon as a mentor and role model, so I was not surprised that she doled out some helpful encouragement in her letter. She wrote, “Keep writing. You give many people joy, even people whom you don’t know. You touch their lives with the gift of your words.”
I couldn’t have written it better myself.