Yesterday I received a letter – a nice card congratulating me on my new home and a beautiful four page letter to accompany it. Or, rather I almost received a letter and would like to imagine that this really did happen. In my heart I know it did.
The letter comes from my grandmother. The pages have yellow irises and hummingbirds in the bottom left corner, and are covered with her elegant penmanship. She writes on Memorial Day weekend. She describes her birthday gift from her best friend, Gail; of eating a hot dog lunch and renting “Girl with a Pearl Earring” on DVD, a book we both read; she enquires about my friends, my sweetheart and refers to a letter I sent her in which I spoke of a train ride. She thanks me for sending her a book for her birthday and that she has already started it, and she writes the plans for the summer…
My grandmother sent me this card six years ago when I moved into my first studio apartment (though I had lived on my own before, first here meant I was paying the rent, no longer a student, no longer dependent on Mom & Dad). I was living in Paris (of course) working as a teacher at my first position since graduating from grad school, my husband to be and I had been dating for five months and my lil’ studio apartment had a brilliant view of the Eiffel Tower.
Now, six years from when I received this letter, I am unpacking boxes (again) in a new house, a new home for my husband, two boys and I. My grandmother is no longer here, but yesterday she sent me a message. I feel her presence and know that she is looking down on us, just as excited as we are to set up house, make our marks and give the place our personal touch.
I wish I could share the details with her.
I was unpacking boxes in the cellar while the boys were napping in the early afternoon yesterday. I was taking advantage of the small window of opportunity to get through several of the boxes quickly without interruptions from little hands, curiosity and pleads for hugs. Through the years I have kept shoe-boxes and shoe-boxes of letters, cards, photos and other correspondances I’ve received over the years, in the different cities where I’ve lived. These souvenirs of different places, different people recounting different experiences, different moments are something I can’t seem to throw away. For me these cards are tangible proof of ephemeral times. They are records of people who mean the most to me, evidence of what happened, events witnessed. As I was unpacking the different boxes of clothes, decorative items and books, I came across boxes filed with three or four shoe-boxes each filled with letters. Someday soon, I will sit and re-read these letters and reminisce. I marked the contents on the various boxes and put them to the side for later. What is suprising about discovering this letter, and clearly a sign of my grandmother’s presence, is that I came across it in a box of shoes, scarves, hangers and handbags. NOT in a box containing other cards and letters. This letter was alone, separated from the rest, which allowed me to stop the sorting I was doing to glance at this one card, something I did not do when I came across the hordes of other cards. It was also at this moment, upon picking up the card that Damien began to wake from his nap which meant my time was up. I held on to the card, closed up the box, turned off the light and ran up the stairs to go get Damien.
With afternoon sun coming through the window, sitting in our new living room, with Damien playing at my feet, I opened the card and devoured the letter like it was a new one, written last week and freshly delivered by our post-woman. I couldn’t believe the coincidence in the greeting card and the treat it was to read a letter from my grandmother, the warmth I felt in feeling like I had received mail from her, that she was thinking of me, us.
The four page letter is filled with typical details that defined our relationship; filled with pieces of my grandmother that are so common in my memory of her, and of what we shared. It is a letter from six years ago, similar events, just different times, a different season and I know she is looking down on us. This was her way of sending me a “congratulations on your new home” greeting.
Excerpts from my grandmother’s letter…
Greeting card : front/ A New Home of Your Own – inside/ Congratulations and Good Luck!
” June 1, 2004 Alexandra, Much, much happiness in your new home! Always, all our love, Grandpapa et Grandmaman xxoo we miss you!”
May 31, 2004
Happy Memorial Day Alexandra,
Have just returned from Mass at Old St. Mary’s (where your folks were married) and all our tours at the graves in the cemetery. It’s a gorgeous sunny day!
Boy what a nice surprise Friday in the mail with your gift book “Under the Tuscan Sun”! (Hope it didn’t cost you a mint to send it) I’ve already started it, and am enjoying it a lot – I also understood I may be able to get the video at the library – boy, what fun! Thank you so much – and while I’m on the subject of thanks – we appreciated your message on Mother’s Day – sorry we weren’t here, but certainly appreciated your thoughtfulness! Thank you again.
You must be in 7th heaven, having your “own pad”! – I can just feel your contentment. Also understand your work and summer plans are good too. As you know, we pray that all continues for you, including having your “sweetie” to share so much with you.
Your last letter received was a joy to read (as always)! It’s the next best to a personal visit – cause you share so much with us. As usual, I’ve written you dozens of mental letters since then, finally … taking the time to put it in writing.
Thanks for thinking of me on that train ride – I was with you in spirit! Ha, Ha
Sorry, but getting back to your apartment, we did see some photos on computer – Uncle Nick got them out for us, and your mom was here to explain everything! Yes, your view of the Tower, and everything – to me it’s like a dream come true for you! And for us too, cause you’re so happy!
Guess what, my friend Gail gave me such a tremendous birthday gift – she made me so happy! This is what she DID! She treated me to my favorite lunch of “Hot Dog on a Bun”, plus dessert she made (we were at her house) and rented the DVD “The Girl with the Pearl Earring”!!! My Gosh – what a wonderful time we had, comparing it to the book (you know I read it huh) and sharing what we imagined etc – she would go back, if she thought we missed something and discuss and discuss, and then go back to the movie! It was such a treat – we were at it all afternoon – it was the best gift!!! It made me so happy – and now with the “Under the T. Sun etc”, I’m hoping she and I can do this again, cause she’s already read it – Sounds like something you and I would do huh – Yes, I want to read “Fallen Angel” – but have been waiting for the “Da Vinci Code” at the library… so I’ll get it eventually –
By the time you get this Toni will be there in Paris!! … Enjoy your Mom & Dad, and thank you so much for sharing your life with us – we keep you in our daily prayers – and miss your visits lots! Thanks again for my book – Love you so – Grandparents
P.S. Thanks for your stunning birthday card too! xo