I would stay there, fall to spring, not come home ... spend school vacations with relatives in Ohio and Kentucky. Nine months away is a long time when you're twelve or thirteen.
I didn't count on being homesick. Whew! I would have laughed at the notion. I found myself not only not laughing, but for the first week or so, surreptitiously weeping.
Suddenly, the idea of getting a letter from home became very important.
Checking the mail.
Back in Nenana, a very kind woman, Mrs. Heacock, kept a cookie jar filled. My mom wasn't so keen on baking cookies because people kept eating them. Not so Mrs. Heacock. She didn't seem to mind that any route I took, from any part of town to another, included a path through her kitchen.
I mention this because at St. Andrews, any path to anywhere took me through the main entry of the main building, where the mailboxes were. They were just like the post office, brass fronts with little glass windows and combination dials. Although the mail only came in once a day, and only on weekdays, I never passed—on any day—without checking for a letter from home.
What's special about a letter.
My father was a great letter writer. Mom was good, too, but less frequent. Dad typed his letters, usually two pages, usually weekly. What did he write? Anything, everything. What he was doing, thinking, planning. Who he ran into at Coghill's store, how deep the snow was, anything about my dog, what he read, what he fixed around the house. Anything was fair game.
Later when I was first married, Patti and I lived outside Bellingham with our one-year-old. We were attending Western, and even though she was from nearby Seattle—not so far—we still hung on those weekly letters from Alaska. Dad could write about going to the grocery, shopping for dinner, and we'd read it aloud to each other, pleased and relieved to have someone on the other end of that lifeline.
What letters mean.
I still go out each day, with interest, to check the mail ... "snail mail," as they say in Harry Potter, as opposed to air mail, which is delivered by owl.
I'm not really getting letters anymore, unless my name has become "occupant" or "current resident." But old habits die hard.
So the one writing letters is me. No paper, necessarily. But I am a ferocious sender of letters by email. The heck with 140 characters, or typing with my thumbs. With all my digits in play, I can blast out a whole letter in ten or fifteen minutes.
I don't write as much as I used to. The kids are grown, not homesick, and their reading time is limited. But I try to send out a paper letter now and again. When I'm gone, and I will be, sooner than they think, a paper letter from me will look pretty good. Just as the regrettable few that exist from my dad look to me.
Take ten minutes and write a letter today.
When you send a letter, in any form, you send a tiny bit of the essence of yourself. It's saying "I love you" the true way—time and caring—without having to include any funny little symbols or faces, though you can, of course.
You don't have to say anything great, because anything you say IS great. Where you went, what you did, what you thought ... what great scheme you're hatching. Plans, dreams, feelings.
Go ahead. Take ten minutes today. And I hope you liked this one from me.