A few months ago I was struck by a piece I listened to on BBC Radio Four’s Woman’s Hour. It was about mothers and sons. The presenter shared stories from sons, now adults, about the impact of receiving letters from their mothers. I remember one chap telling how his mother had left a letter on his bed for him to find as he was packing to leave home to go university. His voice was choked with emotion as he told how moved he was by this and how he had kept the letter to this day. Apparently his mother had been having a bit of a Desiderata moment and had written about the bumps and setbacks he might suffer but how they would be the making of him and how she had every faith that he would make it through.
Two weeks ago, Joshua graduated from his journalism course and then, this week he started a job in Spain as a reporter for an English language paper. This is his first real, salaried, permanent position and we are beyond proud of his achievement. In truth we are also a little envious of his youth and the opportunities that will now unfold before him. When Ian was a little younger than Josh he had a similar experience, getting a job in Dubai. Two years later I joined him and we married and the rest, as the cliché says, is history.
On hearing Josh’s news I knew I now had my opportunity to write him a letter about rocky roads and zigzag paths and how I knew had had what it took to make it through to the other side. And so, for the first time since Terry Anne had lived next door and I put real fountain pen to real paper and wrote her a letter, I reached for my stationery and my favourite purple ink, sat down at the dining table and wrote. I addressed an envelope, affixed two international stamps (that letter was heavy) and laid it on the hall table for posting.
Two days later I was at church and as the vicar spoke to us from his pulpit he happened to mention The Ten Commandments. Then it came to me… I could write The Ten Mum-mandments for Josh. Later that day I wrote my Mum-mandments: all the things that I most admired in his character and how he should hang onto his finest qualities and values at all cost. Again, I used that gorgeous laid paper and my fountain pen and put that in an envelope and stamped it too.
But then I realised it wasn’t fair to leave Ian out and soon he was writing a letter of his own inside a good luck card, putting that in an envelope and adding another stamp. All three were posted on the same day.
Then I waited. Would he be as excited to receive three letters on the same day as we had been to write and send them? This was 2019; had we gone just a little mad? Wouldn’t an SMS have been enough?
Three days later though and Josh was thrilled and I was so glad I had made this small effort to do something that might just have helped him on his journey.
This morning I asked him if it was okay for me to write a Monday Morning Musing about this:
“Yeah… right… you just wanted a story for your blog!”he wrote, followed by…
“It was fantastic. It felt like you were really looking out for me and were rooting for me. It takes much more effort to write and post a letter than just text ‘good luck’. I felt really loved.”
Isn’t it time? Truly, isn’t it time we brought back letter-writing?