He loved to treat us to new clothes and he would often give us some money to buy a new outfit. It seems impossible, but my sister, Mary, only three years older than me, would most often take me on a shopping excursion with our money to get something. Mary couldn’t have been older than eleven or twelve when this was happening. Grampy would walk us to the door as we headed out on our venture and when we thanked him for the money, with a twinkle in his eye, he’d say, ‘Don’t spend it all in one place!’ When he served us supper, he would laugh as he cleared the table. If most of what he had made was eaten he’d say, ‘That sold well!’ Looking back, I think my favourite expression of his was “Well that will give you ‘something to write home about’.” He used this one when we told him about something interesting in our day, or when we were excited about something, or going somewhere special, or sometimes just to tease us when we were making a mountain out of a mole hill.
‘Something to write home about.’
I haven’t heard this expression used in a long time (other than by me or one of my siblings!) but I read it the other day in a blog written by Tara Mohr. It has really stirred my memory. I recognize how lucky I am to live a life where so often I have something to write home about.
Growing up this expression made complete sense to me. After all, we had both sets of grandparents, and all of our cousins, living on the East Coast, while we lived in Ontario. We were used to writing letters. My parents called the East Coast, home. When they would describe where we were going they called it ‘down home’. I always felt like my letters were being sent home. I wrote to both sets of my grandparents until their deaths. Grampy lived long enough to celebrate that I had two children, even though he did not have the chance to meet them in person. He and I wrote each other one letter each week. I set aside Sunday afternoons to write my letters, and I usually received one back from him sometime toward the end of the week, so I can only guess this is when he wrote his too. When he was too frail to write in his own hand, his housekeeper did the writing for him. I grew up taking notice of my world; watching for something to write home about.
Reading Tara’s blog last week, reminded me of the significance of this writing home. In days gone by, when telephones were only used long-distance in absolute emergencies, and when news took a long time to travel, it wasn’t easy to update those in our lives, those at home. I, like my parents before me, left my home province and travelled away to live. And like my parents before me, I saw and experienced things the rest of my family had never seen. These things became things to ‘write home about’.
I have a treasured letter, written by my mother to her sister, where my mother, facing terminal cancer, tells her sister about her week. There was nothing earth shattering in the letter. Mom had not been on a fancy trip, nor had she bought anything new. But she was reflecting on each of her children and my dad, and trying to face her diagnosis with courage. This certainly, was something to write home about. We ‘write home’ when we see new sights, and experience new things. We also write home when we discover something new about ourselves, about our beliefs and values and about what is important to us. We might write home when we are afraid, or trying to make sense of our world.
This week, as I pondered writing home, and what might make it into a letter if I were still spending Sunday afternoons doing so, I went on a short, early afternoon bike ride. As I rode along the Bow River, watching the sun sparkling on the water, and the fishermen standing in their hip waders casting their flies, I came upon two men; one who looked to be middle aged, and the other who I assume was his father. The father was in a wheelchair. They were about two kilometres from the nearest parking lot so I knew the son had wheeled his dad to this spot. They were eating lunch together. The Dad was holding what looked to be a nice homemade sandwich in his shaky hand. The son was standing beside him eating his sandwich too. They were not talking when I cycled past. They were peacefully looking out over the river, caught up in a moment of contentment, peace and love. If I was a photographer, I might have been able to capture the image I have of these two in my mind. It was most certainly something to write home about.
I could imagine the son writing home about this most precious afternoon he spent quietly with his aging father. I could imagine the father writing home about his gratitude for not only the time with his son, but for the thought and effort put into the outing. I could imagine them both writing home about how perfectly right this moment felt. There was something about the flowing river, the passage of time, and the fleetingness of it all that was etched into my mind as I watched them for just a small moment.
Most of us don’t write too many letters anymore. Nor do we need to. We might however, re-institute the habit of not only watching for things to write home about, but also of creating such things.
May your upcoming week be filled with the best of things to write home about.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘What will I write home about this week?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional 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 coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. She has particular expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to notice and create things to write home about.