Posts from — October 2015
October 28, 2015
Call me old-fashioned, but I love letters. That now-ancient form of communication, e-mail’s great-grandmother. The smell of paper, pen, feel of envelopes, the time pared off from the rest of the day to write, to put thoughts onto paper for someone else. I know we do this all the time–more so, even–by electronic means, but there are things about the old-school letter that just pull me. The snail mail part of it. The anticipation of opening part of it. The possible stains or crumbs on the paper part of it. The humanity of it. [This reminds me of Hannah’s beautiful post about Sei Shonogan.]
I was browsing in my favourite local secondhand bookshop the other day and came across a Folio Society edition of Jane Austen’s Letters. How could I resist? I mean, Jane Austen and her letters. It’s estimated she wrote around 3000 in her lifetime, many to her sister, some to other friends and family. I bought the book and thought all the way home about its charming cover, its fascinating and secret contents. (Doesn’t reading other people’s letters seem even more intimate that reading someone’s diary? A diary is not really a conversation, but a letter, with a recipient, feels like eavesdropping on a phone call. And the writer in me loves eavesdropping. Especially when the conversation, the delicious details, are from over two hundred years ago. With names like Mrs. Honeywood, Mrs. Heathcote and Mr. Portal. As well as lots & lots of ampersands…)
Driving home with this book of letters, I thought of how I would have loved this book as a young adult, as obsessed as I was with literature & history & England in general. I might not have read every letter, might have gotten a little tired of all the descriptions of parties and attendees and minute details of daily life. But the style and thoughtfulness, the voice of Jane Austen in these private letters, coming across time, would have impressed me very much. And I would have kept the book forever, for that alone.
So I decided, before I’d even parked my car in the garage, to give the book to my daughter for her birthday.
But not for her birthday coming up next month. Not just for that one. I’m going to give the book to her every year until she’s sixteen. She just won’t know it until then. (Unless she finds this blog post…hmm.)
For her fourth birthday next month, I’m going to write her a letter–on real paper! with an ink pen!–and put it inside the book. Next year I’ll do the same, and the year after that, until she’s sixteen. I want to tell her why I think Jane Austen’s letters are important, and why her own voice is important. I want to capture time for her–a small sketch of her growing up each year that she won’t otherwise get from photographs and videos.
But I don’t know if she’ll like it. Maybe she’ll have become an English literature hater. Maybe what I’m doing will seem so antiquated and cute that she’ll want to bury it at the back of her closet. But I don’t think that’s the point. Because in trapping life on the page the way I see it, I’m just offering what was once true, from my point of view, and it’ll be there whether she reads it or not. Just as the once-true details and people and relationships in Jane’s letters are still there. And that’s what I love about them: all those intricate connections and meetings and tiny details that seem mundane day-to-day. Those are what we savour years later, as our personal history. I won’t be offended if she doesn’t much care for old-fashioned letters or for glimpses of her six-year-old self. But I hope she can understand why I’m doing this, see the ideas behind it all. That our history is valuable. That stories matter. That women telling stories–to each other, to themselves–is ancient and fundamental.
Do you put things aside or write notes to your children or family members? I’d love to hear your ideas.
October 21, 2015
When we were little, my brother used to run away from home. It was generally due to some impending trouble he was about to get in to, because of some trouble he had just caused. Like putting silicon spray on the floor before my Nana came to visit. I think he had Risky Business sock slidin’ in mind. Most of the time he could be found down the end of our cul-de-sac street and could be easily persuaded back home by Dad, who pointed out the holes in his plans : “Have you ever heard possums screeching in the night, son?” “We’re having Neopolitan ice cream for dessert…” etc.
This past weekend we were staring down a menacing gathering of “shoulds”. Should weed the garden, should sort out the spare room, should do this or that. Almost simultaneously, Matt and I looked at one another and suggested we run away instead. Yes!! Plans were cancelled, “shoulds” were given the middle finger, accommodation was booked, road trip snacks were packed. We were off…
October 14, 2015
It’s just gone Thanksgiving around here and we celebrated in all the usual ways–eating until we waddled, piling crisp, amber leaves to jump into and rearranging the nine pairs of shoes on the backdoor shoe rack. No, wait, that’s just something our preschooler makes us do every day. Hannah and I have a history of Thanksgiving visits, so I always think back fondly to those times, before she and her beautiful family moved back down under. Family, friends, food, fun. All the best ‘f’ words.
And thank goodness for pie and stuffing and all the green beans, and I know this is a harvest festival and all. But it’s also a gratitude festival. We always make a point of reflecting on what we’re grateful for. At the end of the day, that’s my favourite part. So here’s my list for 2015, in no magical order. Feel free and welcome to share yours in comments.
2. This guy and this girl. Because, you know.
3. A husband crazy about aforementioned small people.
4. Basil that grows at a weed-like pace. (And guard-ducks to watch over it.)
5. A place to write. Places to write. In both senses: places to write in, places to write about. Writing, in general.
6. This blog. A space we’ve had going for more than three years. (Yikes, how the time goes.)
Happy Thanksgiving. Thanks for being here.
October 7, 2015
I have a problem. My problem is that I cannot stop calling my daughters “beautiful”.
I know I am not supposed to. I know that there is too high a value placed on beauty, especially for women. I know that the pursuit of beauty wrecks havoc on our self-esteems, identities, relationships and…worse. I know that vanity used to be considered a sin and that now we seem to live in a world where happiness and success is regularly measured by the hotness of the latest selfie. I see it, I know it, I feel it, it all makes me want to curl up into a ball and wish the world away. But… my daughters.