My mother made solid contact with me in flimsy forms. Each one weighed less than half an ounce. They were air letters, sheets of blue paper pre-stamped, folded and sealed to make narrow envelopes. My memories of them have lasted years after her death.
Air letters came from my mother each week with clocklike regularity. They came each week for a quarter of a century, the flimsy pale blue of them sheltered between sturdier pieces of mail. I welcomed my mother's handwriting. We were thousands of miles apart. When I first left England for my new home in the United States, I was desperately homesick. Along with air letters came parcels containing gravy browning mix, custard powder, my favorite tea and sometimes chocolates. There was always the weekly letter, which was far more important than the food. I could not wait to reply. I was eager to respond to generate more mail.
Each Thursday, for a quarter of a century, I sat down by the window with a blank air letter in front of me. I filled it easily, turned it overleaf, sealed it and walked to the mailbox. I knew my mum would be doing the same thing.
What did we write about? What sustenance did my mother provide me? She told me Aunt Winnie had visited, Cecil's Labrador dog had chewed up a leather glove, the cactus had flowered, and she had new yellow curtains in the kitchen.
I replied that Tim had made the honor roll, the cat had jumped into the punch
bowl at my party, and my tulips were blooming. Our handwriting softened sad news and illuminated joyful incidents. She had no telephone for many of those years; a telephone call usually meant bad news. The air letters that followed gave
more details, expressed the thoughts behind the tragedies. When my brother Derek's son was killed in an accident, I was unable to leave St. Louis because of an ice storm. Mum described the gathering after the funeral. She wrote that Derek
made endless cups of tea for everyone. Her words said it all.
Each of her letters to me began, "We were so pleased to get your letter, dear."
She was pleased. She welcomed my words. She wanted all the details of my family, dogs, plants, meals and fortunes, good and bad.
When I replied, I wanted to be proud of what I had done that week. It was good to say that I had attended church, cared and shared my skills and talents. Many an action of mine was curtailed when I began to wonder how I would write about it to my mother. The words on the air letters, carefully folded and sealed, were the story of my life unfolding in a strange country.
She wrote until three weeks before she died.
Mum's sustenance and caring led our whole family to a routine of keeping in
touch with each other. Some of us now use e-mail, inexpensive telephone rates and
bargain flights across the ocean to stay in touch. Yet, when I think of my mother's
letters, written in a quiet spot, folded, mailed and received with such delight, I put
pen to paper. There is no delete button for a written letter, no backspace to eat up
whole sentences. Each word is carefully measured before being mailed.
My family and I honor the memory of my mother's never-failing half-ounces
of love. Mischievous dogs, new curtains, blooming plants and luscious meals are
still described. Mum provided us with the groundwork, bless her dear heart.
To submit a story for future publication, send it to: P.O. Box 30880-K, Santa Barbara, CA 93130
(From "Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Tribute to Mom")
Reprinted by permission of Sylvia Jean Duncan. (c)2006 Sylvia Jean Duncan.
(c)2008 Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. Distributed by King Features Syndicate.