When befuddled, I make lists.
1) THANK GOD ITS OVER I CAN FINALLY FEEL MY FINGERS AND HOLY CRAP MY BACK IS EVEN UNCURLING FROM THE HOURS AND HOURS AND HOURS I SPENT BENT OVER MY DESK EXECUTING THIS ENVELOPE!
In all sincerity though, projects like this are good for my soul. I learn new things from new sources, and it gives my head a break from all these words that letter writing, and blogging, and tutoring in liberal arts demand from me. Studying designs, trying them out, discarding or modifying them, and then sketching and inking are all part of a process that exercises my intuition and puzzle-solving faculties while my brain puts on the auto-pilot and takes a much needed nap.
2) After years of being sort of peripherally aware of it I have finally discovered ebay, and its treasure trove of stamps and stationery. Check out these 29c space stamps! I don’t like my total (price + shipping) to exceed the worth (in this case, the face value of the stamps) of the item I’m paying for, which means that I haven’t had much luck with stamps on ebay. These cool ones, however, ultimately sold for less than face value so that I think I even made a bit of a “profit.” I feel so pleased with myself when things like that happen!
It’s a dangerous feeling though. One thing led to another, and when I was fed up looking at wonderful stamps I didn’t want to pay for I began to search for stationery. Well, there’s a lot more stationery that sells within my standard budget—in this case, the total cost must come out to less than a dollar per paper/envelope pair—and I’ve been a slave to the bidding screen all. day. long. On the upside, I have a much more affordable way to add some very cool stationery to my collection without paying through the nose at Papyrus. On the downside, I definitely don’t make enough on a tutor’s wage to support the kind of buying habit I’ve fallen into this month.
3) The mail is starting to trickle in slowwwwwwwly, but with enough frequency that I have hope when the mailman comes now. I received a letter from Alex in Chicago a couple of days ago that is the subject of today’s response. I know my sister is in the process of writing to me, and Lee, Ramya, and Jamie have all promised me letters soon. Hopefully blogging about their assurances will make it come true! (Are you out there guys? See—I’ve said it to the world! Now you have to make it happen!)
4) I had a thought that bears more thinking on: the slow trickle of mail may actually have nothing to do with my letters now, in 2011. In fact, this may just be Karma, come back to set things to right. My 55th letter was sent to an old friend of my mother’s, a nun she met when she volunteered at an orphanage for severely disabled Arab children in Haifa, Israel.*
The subject matter? Responses to the letters she sent me circa 1997-98, when I asked her to be my pen-pal. I was 8 or 9, a terrible procrastinator, and may have only sent one rather disappointing note back to her. I knew I was a horrible pen-pal and that I wasn’t living up to my end of the bargain, and I did quite honestly burn with shame whenever I thought about what Christian must think of me for not being polite enough to write her back. (I placed a lot of stock by politeness at that age, having an investment in being a favorite of adults because I didn’t get along with kids my own age. There was just often a an wide chasm between what I knew I ought to do and what I made time for.)
In any case, I came across her letters in my box of correspondence and thought, “Fourteen years later is still better than never, right?” So I wrote her a letter that touched on everything from her stamp collection and fountain pens, to books from then and now (she sent me some great ones!), to more obscure topics such as the elementary school’s international food festival (what did I bring? That would have been Irish sodabread) and the young deaf Hatian boy that had lived with her briefly. I can only imagine how surprised she will be to receive such a letter out of the blue!
It was a very, very long letter, but quite fun to write. Whether by sheer luck or thoughtfulness (my bet), her letters often talked about interests that we had in common in ’97-’98. And since Christian wrote to me like an adult her letters have aged well; they even seem to say more in 2011. With the passage of time I’ve become a better listener, and some things she wrote of mean more now than they did then. How interesting her stamp collection seems now! And how kind of her to pray for me by virtue of her friendship with my mom. An 8 year old doesn’t really get the significance of someone saying, “I care about you and know all about you, even though I’ve never met you!” Now that I’m in the position of caring for and following my friend’s baby son, despite having never met him, I can much better appreciate what Christian wanted to tell me. I think it’s important to acknowledge that.
*My mom has hardly left the States since she got married and had three demanding kids, but those weeks in Haifa left an indelible impression on her. Photos of those children stand next to our own and the three of us grew up with stories of these kids, all of whom have since passed away.
55. Sr. Christian M. -Chicago
56. Becky (@ Send Something) -Bethlehem
57. Anna M. (@ Postcossing) – Odessa, Ukraine
58. Renee & Family (2011 Letters Project) -Roanoke
59. Alex C. -Chicago