A 30-Year-Old Letter ArrivesBy Susan Henderson
January 10, 2010
Sometimes my mom sends me packages filled with old photos or Most Improved ribbons or other things she finds around the house that she thinks I’ll want back. Recently, she sent me a letter my grandmother sent to her in 1978.
Here’s a photo that was included in the letter. Can you guess who this little bad-ass might be?
I’m eleven here, and it was the year I flew by myself to California to stay with my grandparents.
There were a number of memorable things about that trip – one being that my mother packed a small bag for me that I wasn’t allowed to open until I was on the plane, and inside were things like flavored chapstick and lifesavers and a tiny notebook and a pen with a panda or some other wonderful thing stuck to the end of it.
And on the other side of that flight, I found that my grandparents had a special fondness for quiet. The telephone had cardboard jammed into the ringer so it never actually rang but sort of ticked. And conversations were very whispery. I remember noticing all of these things, and still making the choice to wake up early each morning so I could play several games of pop-up Perfection.
But the point of this post is actually to share the letter my grandmother sent to my mom after that visit.
I don’t know if you can imagine what it was like to read this note all these years later, and in the throes of editing my first book – to hear my grandmother, who’s been dead for decades, cheering for me. Not sure when, in between rounds of Perfection, I was so interesting or funny. But it means a lot to me that she saw something and that she said so and that my mom thought to send this letter to me when I needed it most.
Along with the letter and that first photo, is this one that frightened Mr. H when I showed it to him. I’m not sure where the wig came from, but it would have been just like me to wear it the whole day for no reason. And only a grandmother would write this on the back of the photo:
and old friend
gave me a DVD compilation
of videos from college
it was the
I’d love to jump into old
pictures and talk to my
You retained your cuteness
how wonderful is that?
Did you ever read the letter Stephen Fry wrote to his younger self? I’m pretty much in love with him for this: http://open.salon.com/blog/is_that_it/2009/04/30/comedian_stephen_fry_writes_a_letter_to_his_16_yo_self
You do look bad-ass in that first photo.
That’s so cool. Major props to both your mother and your grandmother, one for the pitch, and the other for the assist. Best of luck with The Ruby Cup!
Yeah, even with ruffles, the bad attitude pours through!
Your family is the best!
My grandfather- bless him- also believes that I’m terribly interesting and/or hilarious. He has this idea that I should pitch Barbara Walters a younger version of “The View” with me as a host. We think this is a sign of coming senility.
I’m with your grandfather. Do it, and then post the letters here.
Oh, wow, I LOVE that note from your grandmother. The timing is remarkable. I think sometimes a person gets affirmations in odd ways to keep the spark of hope and perseverance alive.
It was a totally unexpected spark, and came right when I was on the verge of calling it quits.
Hey, I just love how your book is getting a second life!
Funny how that happens. It’s possible I would have turned away from writing (again) for good if I hadn’t received one special comment from a teacher. I’m so glad your grandmother’s voice “came back” to encourage you.
YAY September pub date!!! The next months will fly by….
Re: my novel’s second life–proof that you NEVER know what’s in store for your work. I couldn’t breathe for a few seconds after I got the news.
It’s amazing how much a little comment from a teacher or a grandmother or a stranger makes when you’re hungry for any kind of encouragement. They can make you stand up again.
My grandmother and I had an entire relationship in cards and letters, starting when I was a very awkward nine year old living, suddenly, thousands of miles away from her. Often she would tuck in a dollar or two, but that really was beside the point. It was the narration of her days: swept the porch, Papa repainted the wooden swing a fresh gray, went to the butcher, Lou says hi, that I would cling to.
By the time I left home for college I had amassed boxes of letters and cards. When my parents moved from that house the boxes were never found again, although my mother swears they made it onto the moving truck.
I’m so glad you have this letter….
I love the ease of email, but don’t you miss those real-life letters and the crooked handwriting, and saving them in boxes? Maybe your box of letters will re-appear one of these days…
I love that letter. Grandmothers and mothers are the best.
I have box of letters and cards from my mother stored with the trunk of family photos up in our attic. Sometimes I’ll look at them when I’m up there hunting for something else – Christmas decorations or whatnot. Then I go back downstairs again I get another chance to complain about the dust and swear I’ll clean up there as I wipe my eyes.
Seriously, it’s really dusty up there.
Aww. My box is filled with letters from old boyfriends who put the stamps on upside-down and dabbed cheap cologne on the pages. They’re more embarrassing than sentimental. Sometimes the memory of those times is better than actually delving into the real thing!
There you go making fun of my dyslexia and Hai Karate! again. Ha!
You know one of the many reasons I avoid facebook is because I’d rather leave some memories untrammeled by reality. That and the idea that there are women on there who may very well have a shoebox filled with my odoriferous missives.
Yeah, it’s a weird thing to have all those people back in one room – exes, bosses, people you knew in kindergarten who now play farmville all day. It’s a strange trip.
No, I never did see anything cuter. Thanks so much for sharing this!
Thanks, Mary. Your piece, Promise, is just stunning.
This is so important in more than one way. Your grandmother saw your potential so many years ago, and your mother knew enough to save the letter and send it to you when it would most be appreciated.
Savor your family. Not all of us are this lucky.
Irene, thank you so much for the reminder. xo
All I’m saying, is that your face in that picture is a dead-ringer for one very young guitar player in your house.
I know. I hear he also has that attitude from time to time.