The importance of letters

Walking up our driveway to the side door a few weeks ago, I noticed a folded piece of lined paper on the ground. As I picked it up, I could see it had handwriting on the inside so I opened it up in case it was a piece of homework from one of the kids.

It was a letter addressed to Natalie from Mum, in an unfamiliar handwriting.

I don’t know any Natalies who live in my street.

I did read the letter, and it made me feel such warmth to the Mum who wrote it to her daughter, Natalie. I’m guessing that English isn’t the first language of this writer, but she expressed herself so beautifully.

The letter was dated in 2007, and Mum was writing to Natalie because she was going on her first trip away from home in Melbourne to Queensland with friends. There were 6 pieces of advice – numbered – on bedtimes, swimming, health issues, manners, emotions, and drinking and driving.

Mum wanted Natalie to know that she was so proud of her – I think she had recently finished Yr 12 and turned 18 because there was mention of a driving licence and study.

Mum used a beautiful simile – I will miss you big big big … like … ocean!!!

I don’t want to quote anything else from this warm, personal letter. Local friends – do you know a Natalie, maybe around 30 now, with two older brothers, a fabulous fashion sense and a gorgeous Mum? I would love to return her letter to her.

I have a couple of boxes of cards and letters from friends, parents, grandparents, work colleagues, and maybe once a year or so I flick through them. There’s something so nostalgic about reading old notes and remembering where you were at a particular point in time when a friend reached out to you. I have a lovely note from a friend when one of my grandmothers died, funny, grammatically incorrect notes from my kids, beautiful love letters from my husband, kind thank-you notes from friends.

It’s so quick and convenient to send text messages or emails but reading a handwritten note is almost a tactile experience and seems embedded with more thought and connection.

It would be easy to invent a story about Natalie and her Mum, springing off from this letter. Perhaps Natalie never came back from her Queensland holiday because she found a surfer boyfriend? Perhaps her two big brothers and her Dad came up to find her? Perhaps Natalie was suffocated by her mother’s advice? Perhaps she deliberately ignored her mother’s bedtime suggestion and the advice to swim between the flags?

But the real story is the very obvious love that this Mum has for her Natalie.

2 comments

  1. What a great letter, Karen. I do hope you find Natalie. If not, a great story is begging to be written.

    While I miss my children when they are away and worry about them, I doubt they would take much notice of me writing to them about their manners!

  2. I also love letters. They are just for the receiver. Mum writes to one of my granddaughters now and again. She then receives one from her. Great Nana is thrilled.

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