Saturday, April 17, 2010

Robert's Letters from Home

I received so many letters from my family when I was in college. This one (circa 2001) definitely stood out when I found it in my shoebox the other day. Robert writes:

"It's weird down here without you."

When I read those words, I couldn't help but laugh to myself. It is so ironic that we are in opposite positions now. I am the one at home, he is the one away. I am the one dealing with the "weirdness" of his absence.

"The other day I set a place for you at the table and a few days before I couldn't find you."

Ok, that part put a tear in my eye. I wish that my absence had not brought him pain (or confusion?)

"I also found myself humming a song you used to play."

Robert, every day I hum that darn Safety Dance song of yours.

"Peter [
the parakeet] says fffttttssss (HI!) The bunny gives me a bite thats for you. Petey also sends a gift I do too."

The fact that he was looking for something in the house that was familiar to me was very sweet.

"P.S. The gifts are in the envelope."

The gifts.

This is an example of something I would not have to hold on to, if Facebook had been founded earlier. For some reason, I cannot see myself finding comfort while Robert is away, by just reading his social profile over and over. Not very personal. Through this letter, I can relate to his own sadness and apply it to my own, knowing that college eventually ended and I moved back home, and someday he will be back as well. Until then, thanks for the letter, brother. You'll never know how special they were to me when the pains of homesickness were sometimes overbearing. I only hope that I can start giving you the letters from home that you need to know that you are loved. Although I'm not sure that George-hair would make it past customs.

Letters from Home

I've caught myself thinking more than once in the past several weeks (shocking, I know) about networking websites and some obvious losses that society has taken as a whole. Don't get me wrong- facebook, gmail...they're all great. But because of them, we are living in such a dynamically different world than we were as little as 5 to 10 years ago. And I miss it.

I remember the days when I'd call my friends, several times a week. I'd call to chat, catch up, ask advice from, etc. And I'd get those phone calls back. But what is the point in chatting, when you have gchat? Or catching up, when you can read their statuses? And advice? Well, I could definitely still use that.

And the one I miss the most. Letter-writing. During my Junior year in high school, I had a best friend who lived in a different area code than I. Do teenagers today know what that means? She lived long distance, and I got punished/money taken from allowance if I called her and talked longer than 10 minutes each week. The obvious solution? Letter-writing. I wrote her a letter every single day that year. And she did as well. It was so beautiful. I still have that shoebox full of those letters and photos, and the last I heard, so did she.

Writing letters to friends when I was in high school and college solidified the friendships that I still have today. There is something that can be said for another person who is willing to sit down and take an hour out of their day and write to YOU. The time it takes to write a letter, the patience it takes to receive one in return, the penmanship, the white-out, the photos included, even the $0.41 sacrifice; all of these were proofs to my adolescent self that someone cared enough about me. And how fun it was to prove that I cared enough in return.

I found an old shoebox the other day. It was filled with old letters that I must have collected that were dearest to my heart. There was about 20 years worth of letters from my grandparents, now deceased. Another 20 years from my other set of grandparents. There were cards from friends and family alike. I sat there and read each one of them. Then I made a scary discovery. They stopped abruptly in late 2005.

In late 2005, I signed up for Facebook.

I don't regret using social media sites, and I will continue using them (though not as much as I have been). I want to somehow find that balance again between just "keeping up" with people, and truly showing loved ones that I care- something other than a "poke" or a "like". It will be hard, because, like I said, I already know how these people are doing, I see their statuses. Likewise, they know how/what/where/why I am doing.

All I can really say, is thank God that Facebook was not around when I was in high school / most of college. That shoebox in my closet would be empty. I wouldn't have known what my grandparents were doing in Florida. I would have never been taught that lesson about having my allowance taken away. Most importantly, I wouldn't have ever gotten a letter from my brother...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Divine Reunions, Part I

I was in an absolutely miserable state when I began high school.

I was at a new school. A school that was a 2 hour ride away (1 hour to the bus stop, 1 hour on the bus.) The high school had a total of 13 kids in it, and we were all taught in the same room. Our history and science classes all taught me things that completely contradicted my faith, and the teachers actually stood at the front of the classroom and condemned people like me. I was miserable. I had no friends, no teachers that liked me and had lost all hope for high school being anything like High School Musical. I soon became physically ill with stress.

My own misery stemmed from one thing: a fantastic, glorious 3 previous years at my old school. To have the two opposite experiences back-to-back was just unfair for my pre-pubescent, hormonal self. I cried nearly everyday. "I miss 8th grade. I miss my old friends. I miss Jennifer."

Jennifer and I were inseparable, best friends in 6th-8th grade. We sat next to each other in our classes, we were always partners, and she even made me go to my first dance. At the end of 8th grade, she moved to a small town that I had never heard of. We both went our separate ways and gradually lost touch. But I felt the pain of her absence nearly every day during the first year of high school.


Shortly after my husband and I were married, dreams started quickly developing over where to purchase our new home. We wanted the feel of a small-town. We could not afford Northern Virginia, nor were necessarily pleased by its crowds. But we didn't want to be too deep into central Virginia where we could not commute to Northern for jobs. After nearly a year of internet-researching, I told my husband:

"I want to go scenically-drive through a small town called Culpeper. It's south of here. The houses are adorable and oh-so-within budget."

"Did I mention they have incredible mountain views?"

"Let's go!"

After almost another year of house-hunting and waiting until the time was right, we moved. What an exciting moment to finally be a home-owner! The first thing that I decided to do before the ink was dried on our closing papers, was to give the house a good scrubbing from top to bottom. To get that "previous owners" feel out of the house. To make it my own home.

I grabbed my sister Julia and we ran to Walmart. (She's an expert on cleaning supplies, where I always thought windex solved everything.)
As we were perusing the cleaning aisle, I heard a familiar voice from years back. One that I had longed for so much as an adolescent:


I turned around.


The joy I felt exploding in my heart could not be described. After all of those young years of praying and pleading with God...."I'll never ask for anything again!...ever!", He finally led me to her. That tiny town that I was so attracted to, was the same tiny town that she moved to back in '97.

And guess what? She never left. In fact, she's married to a Culpeper boy and has a three year old daughter now. A daughter that is determined to beat me in Chutes & Ladders one of these days.

Why is it that years after we give up hope that God is listening, He turns around and says, "In my time, child, not yours."

It's beautiful.

(POST-EDIT): In case you were wondering, I switched high schools after 4 months of being miserable. After that, high school rocked, sort of like a musical.