I've been trying to think of a snail mail project I could do on the blog for ages...leave it to Pip to articulate and organise the ideas I just let float around in my head and host an awesome letter writing project on her blog! For awhile there I was going to design fun downloadable postcards that say sweet positive things and encourage you to download and send one to a friend to brighten up their actual mailbox (as opposed to inbox).
Then I got distracted...probably by like a sunbeam or a passing butterfly much like a cat...and forgot all about it. So, long story short, until I do the postcard thing...I thought I'd participate in Pip's 52 Hellos project and you never know, she might choose my letter to mention! For 52 weeks Pip is writing a letter to someone, and posting about a letter she receives. Here's my letter...
Thanks for hosting such an awesome project based around the concept of mailbox brightening and snail mail...two things I have a definite soft spot for. Because I like to play with Photoshop and photography and hand lettering and such, I decided to write your letter on the back of this print I made just because. It's a watercolour photo of teeny tiny envelopes made out of vintage papers...it sounded very Pip so it's yours to keep if you like :)
I"m writing to tell you about my grandparents...who hand wrote me letters for my whole life. Back then I assumed everyone did this with their Nan & Pa...as I got older I realised how lucky I was. Before I could answer them with my own written sentences, I would send them colourful texta illustrations of my pets, my sisters, and the Famous Five type adventures we got involved in on our little farm (an hour and a bit from theirs.) They always wrote me back, letters from each of them.
Nan would ask me about school, tell me about her friends...and would never fail to describe in great detail dresses worn to special occasions past and present...and always what was served for afternoon tea. She is where I got my sweet tooth from. Pa would write about what it was like growing up on a farm with an army of older brothers, stories from the war...and inevitably every single letter would circle around to sport. The latest news from the bowls competition...and most especially footy...epic goals kicked and victories scored in his playing past...and his opinion on current games and footballers (who were paid ridiculous amounts of money these days!) He lived and breathed football. I would write back about exams and after school jobs...university and meeting Luke, the guy I was going to marry. I always loved to include a sentence about what kind of crazy things technology can do nowadays (I work in IT) because it always amazed them so. Pa would reply with "there's got to be some great new invention out there Tania...we just have to think of it first!"
I realised when I got to my thirties how lucky I was that we still wrote each other...that I had this beautiful connection that I could tap into...ask them real questions about the war...life in a time I couldn't begin to imagine...falling in love (Nan noticing the unique shape of the back of Pa's head when sitting in church had something to do with it apparently!)...and staying married for 60 something years. As they got older I treasured their handwriting...it became more spidery...often straying from the lines...I knew it was a special effort and took time. I turned my handwriting into a font so I could upsize it and print it out to make it easier for them to read. Gradually I got less letters in reply because age began to slow their hands and dim their sight...and I understood. I sent them articles that I had written for magazines and they called for chats...(the only ones outside of my Mum who still use my landline)...Pa would get his footy fix from discussing the weeks play with Luke.
As of last October, my Pa is no longer with us. That may be what happens after 95 years, but it still doesn't feel real and I miss him so. I miss his squidgy knitted hat that warmed his bald head...and how he ate his Weeties from a salad bowl. I miss his strong weathered hands...hands that ran a dairy farm and trained race winning horses...hands that so naturally formed around the worn leather of a football before a hand-pass. I regret to this day not photographing one of his giant hands holding mine. He built us the most amazing hide and seek spots...a secret room in the middle of the haystack at the farm that you had to crawl through a tunnel for...a trapdoor in the bottom of an unused water tank that towered above the farmhouse only accessible by a ladder. But I have a folder full of his letters...words of what he learned...of who he loved (family is more important than anything he said often later in life)...of his favourite sayings, stories and footy goals. And I can keep writing to the woman he loved for all those years...share afternoon tea with her...and remember him.
Thanks Pip, for underlining the importance of writing, and of writing letters...