In the letters I told them about the milestones they had reached in the previous year, I wrote about the things they liked to do, about their dreams and worries, about my dreams and worries and most importantly of all, I told them how much I loved them and that I was proud of them.
They of course, had no idea I had this tradition. I can see myself sitting at our kitchen table after they had gone to bed, sometimes on the very day of their birthday, when their friends had gone home, and the candles on the cake had been blown out, hand-writing my letter to them. When I finished the letter, I would ask Jim to add his thoughts at the end, put it in an envelope, put their name and the date on it and add it to the little shoe box in my closet. I hadn’t decided when I should give the letters to the kids, but I always assumed I would know when it was the right time.
These of course were love letters.
I have a long tradition of letter writing. When I was a little girl, living in Ontario, both sets of our grandparents lived on the East Coast, in New Brunswick, and we wrote letters to them. I kept up this tradition long after I was married and had moved to Alberta. By then I added my own parents, Jim’s parents, my godparents and often one or more of my siblings to the roster too. This is how we kept in touch, long before we could text and before we could afford to call long-distance.
When Jim and I were engaged, he spent four months on the remote north shore of Quebec, near Sept-Iles, performing research at a salmon-spawning station. There was no electricity in the cabin where he stayed and there certainly was no phone. Each week, we wrote letters to each other.
These too, were love letters.
As Kaitlyn’s birthday came and went this week, I found myself thinking about love letters. While most of us no longer write letters of any kind, I’ve been thinking about how more modern love letters look.
I read a little news story this week, out of Comox, B.C. The story was about an 86-year-old woman, Tinney Davidson, who, for the past eleven years has sat in her living room, by her window, each morning and waved to the students as they headed off to Highland Secondary School. Each morning the students walking past would glance to their left, see Tinney waving, and wave back. The students began to count on this, as one would count on noticing the seasons change; it was spectacularly beautiful, and completely ordinary. Tinney’s small wave, and genuine smile, became something the students counted on.
This was her love letter to them.
This week, when the students heard that Tinney was moving, one of the teachers helped them organize themselves to go to say goodbye. They walked together to her home, 400 strong, homemade signs and heart shaped placards in hand. They gathered quietly, stuck the signs on her lawn and in the gardens on the edges, and when the teacher brought her out on to her porch, together they all blew her a kiss and wished her well.
This was their love letter to her.
Modern love letters may not be hand-written on paper much anymore, but I notice people still finding ways to send them. My friend Sandy, says she now has a schedule of her friends who are wanting to help her by driving her to her daily radiation and periodic chemotherapy treatments.
These are love letters.
In my house, I always baked chocolate chip cookies to put in the kid’s lunches when they were in school. I later began to make them for my students on the days when they wrote their Math exam, and I brought them to my colleagues when we had a late meeting. Now, I make sure to have them on hand when the kids come for a visit. I noticed Greg made them when we went to visit him. And Kaitlyn bakes them for her staff.
These too, are love letters.
My dance instructor Reba J, sends us two love letters each week. One is delivered in person, when we show up in class and her face lights up with joy as she greets each of us. The other is the email she sends to all the Chinook Country Dancers the next day to tell us how well we are doing and how proud she is of us.
These too, are love letters.
We may not write many of the old-fashioned love letters anymore but there are thousands of ways we can send the newer version. I finally gave each of our kids their letters one Christmas when they came home from University. It was the perfect timing and I know I’ve never purchased a gift more precious.
This past year, I wrote my first letter to Benjamin and I’ve put it in a binder. As he gets older, I think I’ll incorporate the twist to this tradition my friend Sheryl spun. She loved the idea of my birthday letters, and when her grandchildren came along she decided to write letters for each of them. She interviews them before the big day, and then writes the letter. They keep them in a binder in their rooms and can be found reading them over and over. What a gift.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘What love letter can I send?’
Elizabeth is a certified, professional Life and Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership and personal coaching for individuals and teams. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to customize your own brand of love letter.