Writing 30 letters in 30 days for the write_on challenge proved to be a turning point in my creative life:
Handwriting letters brought me back to my roots. It felt meditative and deeply satisfying. And because I had a specific audience to write to, my writing topics and voice flowed out happily and abundantly. For at least two years now, I’ve been stuck in my writing with none of the joy or satisfaction writing has given me my whole life. This natural flow of ideas and voice was an incredible relief.
There’s so much more, too–new Carrot Condo products brewing as I type, new friendships, and incredibly timely realizations and insights that just keep broadening my creative vista. But the most serendipitous story is this one about some round-shaped stationery.
When I was maybe six years old, a girl named Jessica and her parents came to visit us. At the time, I don’t think I understood who she was, just that I would have someone to play with. I remember we slept on the floor of what my parents called “the den,” and I was really impressed with her sleeping bag. That’s pretty much the extent of my memory.
However, a picture of the adult Jessica with her husband and first child hangs on my parents’ wall, and a few years ago, Jessica found me on Facebook and mailed me some things from the man who would have been my grandfather, except I never knew him. What I didn’t comprehend as a child is that Jessica’s father and my father were stepbrothers. They lived in the same house for at least a summer, maybe longer, and were friends.
Jessica had seen my post about write_on and requested a letter. I had just mailed her letter when I visited my parents and asked my mom if I could look through a box of stationery she let me use when I was a kid. I remembered loving the designs, and I thought they might inspire some of my own.
When I came across this circular design, my mom said, “Oh! I remember writing to Mike on that stationery when he was in the Air Force. I wrote in multiple colors in a spiral. He said it drove him crazy to read it.”
I said: “Mike? Jessica’s dad?”
“Yes,” she said.
Unfortunately, Jessica’s dad died many years ago, far too young. And yet, here I was, holding a piece of stationery my mom had used to write to him long before Jessica or I existed.
“Can I have a piece of this?” I asked. That night, I went home and, a little too excited to write as neatly and painstakingly as I’m sure my mom did, I wrote a second letter to Jessica. In a spiral.
When my mom talked about the letter she’d sent Jessica’s dad, it was told like a story about something that happened recently. He’s obviously still loved and well-remembered. It felt good to see proof that we live on in ways we maybe can’t imagine. It felt good to send along a note to Jessica from her dad.
Also, I just realized, the reason my mom has this box of stationery is because the man I knew as my grandfather (but was really my step-grandfather), worked at Mead Paper Company and routinely brought us gifts from the employee store. It was because of him my mom had the round stationery to write on.
And, it’s because of him and my mom’s good taste not to ever use it that we still have this:
I think I tore out the first and only sheet to be used, but hey, 45 sheets for 59-cents!
My experience writing letters felt magical, especially this second letter to Jessica. Handwritten letters feel radically different than email or texts or even typing a letter, which are all good. But none of those would have un-earthed the round stationery.