Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Today I Received a Love Letter

Today I Received a Love Letter
Sunday, the first day of January. Today I received a love letter. It didn’t arrive in the conventional manner, tucked in my box at the post office, enclosed in an envelope with my name in the center and a cancelled stamp in the upper right-hand corner. It fell out of a book I was reading, a used book, “Garbo Laughs”, a novel by Elizabeth Hay, a writer from Ottawa, Canada. Who knows how long it had held a place between the pages.

I turned the page and a small piece of paper fell onto my lap. I instantly recognized it was special. I picked it up. “A love letter,” I said. My insides went warm and fuzzy and my face relaxed into a smile. A love letter meant for me. I wondered who sent it.

What conniving of the gods routed this special missive from a previous reader into my hands.

What other book lover knew that I would find “Garbo Laughs” entrancing, sweet and romantic. How did he know this copy would travel its circuitous route to me. Did he suspect that I might move the book from pile to pile for several weeks before I picked it up, opened it and settled into my chair to read. Did he know it would be days before I would reach the particular page, before the slip of paper would fall into my lap to delight me.

The paper is plain, ripped from a three by five spiral-bound notebook and measured by aqua blue lines. The spirals bind the top of the pages which then flip open from bottom to top. The page is unusual. Centered below the ragged spiral shreds and the first blue line is a hole. The page is from the kind of notebook that my father carried in the left pocket of his chambray shirt along with a stub of pencil. Several of these notebooks, tattered and smudged, hung from nails in Dad’s machine shop out at the farm where I grew up. Do notebook makers still make this old fashioned notebook, with the center-punched hole designed for hanging from a nail?

I have an embarrassingly large collection of notebooks, every style and size. They are everywhere, in every room, on shelves, a stack on my desk, in my purse, in my van. I make sure paper is at hand if I want to write down a thought, an idea, a task, a poem. Yet none of my notebooks are like the old-fashioned one from which my lover ripped this page so that this morning I could receive his tender thoughts.

There are no words on the paper. The page is blank. So how do I know it is a love letter? I know in the same intuitive way we know when the phone is about to ring. The way we know one of our children a thousand miles away is having a bad day. The way we know rain is over the horizon although the sky above is cloudless blue. This scrap of paper is a love letter. I know.

Does anybody write love letters these days? I doubt it. We should. An expression of love doesn’t come across the same way in an email or text message. No, a love letter, to convey the proper emotion, must be handwritten. It requires the movement of one’s hand holding the pen to translate thoughts and feelings from one’s heart onto paper. With a handwritten letter, the reader can tell from the slant, from the speed of writing, from the clarity of the letters what mood the writer was in; whether happy or angry or sad or exuberant. Even a scrawled note can be beautiful, a paper to treasure, to bind up in ribbon with other such letters, to be saved in a shoe box and hidden beneath the shawls on the top shelf of the closet.

Today, the first day of January, 2012, the day of my love letter, I walk with my head in the clouds. I put the milk carton in the bathroom medicine chest and my hair brush in the refrigerator. My socks don’t match. I burn the soup. I hum sappy tunes from old musicals. I’m in love with my unseen lover.

Somebody out there loves me. Somebody sent me words of love, unwritten, on a blank page, but easily read nonetheless. I love romance.

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door
January 5, 2012

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