There is a reason why I choose to write in a letter-format to you. It seems like the right thing to do because that is how I kept in touch with your mom over the years. I know I know, even our version of “back then” had ICQ and hotmail, so it was not the only method of communication. In a sense, I always thought it was romantic (not in the lovey-dovey way) and a lost art I hoped to revive.
On the eve of your mom’s last night in Beijing, we were on the phone together until four in the morning (which is crazy late at our age back then!). What we exactly talked about, I don’t quite remember, except that time was a tickin’ before your mom effectively turned into a pumpkin. I only recall two things: first, I was on a white corded phone, and second, I made a promise to write her a letter every ten days.
I wouldn’t know at the time what a tall order that is. As a man of few words, finding things to fill up the front and back of a piece of notebook paper on a regular basis is tough. My favorite part was always the “Dear Christina, How are you?” And for whatever reason, the part I despised the most was writing our addresses on the envelope. Thank you, Internet and gmail, for autofill.
In any case, I kept my promise of a letter every ten days for two years. And for every letter I sent, your mom would write one back. We both kept all the letters the other one sent over the years. I have three shoeboxes filled with letters, as does your mom. We dug into them recently and it’s every bit as painful to read as one would expect. I find myself thinking “Wow, did I really write/think that??” after almost every other line.
Your moms letter to me were often on cute stationary in colorful pens. The content of her letters were very normal teenager stuff about school, siblings, and parents. She always signed off with a heart in the middle of the word “always”.
My letters, on the other hand, were a classic case of a teenager trying to find his identity.
- I had a thing for writing in pencil, but that eventually changed to pen when I started working.
- My handwriting had gone from normal to flowing script to all caps to some hybrid script.
- I had an egocentric phase where I would quote the year relative to my own birth, so instead of the year 2000, it would be 16 AJB (After Jonathan’s Birth).
- This also coincided with a time when I was deeply into Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series, and I would write stuff like “Light!” instead of “Oh my God.”
- I wrote only on college-ruled paper because I liked the spacing, and it didn’t escape me that the price I paid was having to come up with more content to fill up one sheet of paper.
- I often included a second sheet of notebook paper with a poem on it. And yes, those poems, inspired by 2pac and an unwavering love for your mom, will make you want to gag.
The letters never stopped, but they did become more infrequent over the years as we got older, busier, and involved with others. By the end, we had finally migrated over to emails, and I felt I lost a piece of our history because I would no longer have a letter to open from your mom.
As I mentioned in a prior letter, your mother and I have since picked the habit back up. Before I leave for business trips now, I’ll leave a letter for her somewhere in the house and she’ll slip one into my luggage when I’m not looking. And here I am sort of writing letters to you. I suppose you can say it’s a tradition in this family!
In an effort to preserve a piece of history, the following set of sounds were what we grew up with:
ICQ – sound for receiving a message
AIM – sound for a buddy coming online
AIM – sound for receiving an instant message