My Sketch – ink & watercolour
LOVE LETTERS IN A SHOE BOX
Only yesterday I blogged that I would not be writing much the next while, but creativity infuses your thoughts at the most irregular and often inopportune times. I awoke at 4 am with creative juices surging and so alive that I felt impelled to jump out of bed and record them. So, coffee is on and here I go …
I was in love from ages 16 to 20 with someone who fortunately loved me back just as fiercely and passionately. This was no puppy love. It was the pure, intense, all-consuming first love. During one summer we were apart. We wrote each other almost every day. The letters included our adventures, our plans and our promise to each other that if our love did not last, we would meet again, if we were both available, when we were 60. It seemed reasonable to think that if we were alone at that time, our shared interests and affection would make a good partnering for our senior years together. Since then I have learned that this is a common idea in many young relationships – a way to hold on to something good.
I kept those letters, and a large collection of newspaper accounts of his hockey and football accomplishments, in a shoe box, and then a second box, squeezed full of love, hopes and our dreams. The boxes travelled with me, into nursing, into my first apartment shared with my new husband and our newborn daughter, a second apartment with my husband, daughter and newborn son; into a third apartment with the four of us and a new baby girl; then into our first home where yet one more treasured babe arrived.
I remember the morning as clearly as if it were only last month. G and I were playfully enjoying the new day. Our babes were quietly engrossed with their toys and each other in their rooms. I was sitting on our bed, legs folded under me, wearing ‘baby doll’ pj’s. I was happy. G went into our closet and returned with the shoe boxes. I had never hid them, nor did I flaunt them, simply kept them and the memories.
My husband put it to me that perhaps it was time to throw the letters away. We were a unit now with our four children. Perhaps it was time to put that part of my life behind me. I think I put up a small resistance, but not much. I shrugged and said OK. I thought the request unnecessary, but I understood his reasoning, so I willingly acquiesced.
Only years later, when I began genealogy did I realize that I had stuffed other letters in those boxes as well. There were some from my Mom, from my maternal grandmother and a special note written by my father-in-law to welcome me into the family. This lovingly and generously written note was all the more treasured for two reasons: I was joining a staunch Roman Catholic, Irish family and I was a Presbyterian as proud and staunch. In addition, I was very pregnant with our child. But Chas’s open heart reassured me that I was a welcome addition to their loving and loud clan. I always loved him for that small act of kindness. He instinctively knew how vulnerable I felt.
So long gone were those treasures as well as the record of first love. I was not bitter, nor resentful, only a little sad at the loss. Decades later, after yet another move to another new home, did G unfurl a painting he had done before we married. It was a nearly life-sized, sultry portrait in charcoal, of a beautiful woman with flowing dark hair. I recognized her immediately. It was Siobahan, G’s romance before moi.
The sheer gall of the man came to mind. He pleaded the case that I should toss the symbols of my high school love, while he held onto a relic of his university dalliance.
But it was art after all, so I suggested our daughter might want to hang evidence of her father’s talent (hurmph) in her home. There it stays to this day.
Now, due to the absence of those long ago letters tucked into a shoe box, I miss the opportunity to access conversations of a first love. What grand plots and truthful dialogue they might inspire in my writing today.
Destroying the physical evidence of our past does not improve the present. Perhaps we should consider, that each and everyone of us comes to a new relationship with a back story that helps make us who we are.
Sunrise in Wasaga Beach, as I finish this blog entry.