I opened the box today – it had broccoli written on the side, so it was different to the usual cardboard shoe box that most people store their memories in. Perhaps it once kept the broccoli fresh and in shape! It was not one I had chosen but nevertheless it stored my history.
The lid off: that blast from the past, my inner feelings as it wasn’t just letters to me, it was letters written to my family by me.
The box was made of squeaky plastic – you know the sort that could float on water. I once had a surfboard made of this substance and every time I would lie on it, my wet little belly would make that exact noise.
Made of those little balls of plastic all stuck together – polystyrene. It made exactly that fanfare as I removed the lid, a familiar sound, and one that I reminisced over, dreaming of a childhood that screamed of freedom.
My memories on paper
In the box were the letters lovingly kept by my mum, then passed onto me. I was astounded how precious these letters had become, especially in this age of internet and digital immediacy.
I am sorry to say this but NOTHING can take the place of letters – written on postcards, air mail paper and anything else that the writer could find.
Once, while in Egypt, I wrote a letter full of hieroglyphics to my sister with a cheat sheet, so she could work out what each symbol stood for and decipher it.
When I was travelling it was so exciting for me, and everyone in times gone by, to go to the local post office—poste restante or lista de correos—to collect the letters that waited for you.
Sometimes it was a big bundle (birthdays, Christmas and the like) and other times it was only one letter. Whatever the post held for you it was always momentous.
We would then go to a local park, coffee shop or bar clutching unopened letters and look at the precious envelopes over and over, and mull over the contents. And when your tea/coffee or wine arrived you would open and devour every sentence.
Sometimes, they included photos or something memorable only fitting those times. My most impressive was a letter that had arrived in Costa Rica from my sister. In it were cut-out hats (from newspaper none the less), a pin the tail on the donkey and other oddities, as well as photos of the party they had had at home to celebrate my 30th birthday.
Unfortunately, it didn’t include the cake but there was one there, all eaten in my absence.
Now, I wait for a word or two…
I miss those times of the post office and collecting of letters. It was a sign of the times.
Now, my own daughter is off travelling on her latest adventure, half way across the world and I do crave to hear a word from her. However, I will be patient, as my family were with me.
Perhaps I’ll get an email.