Friday, February 26, 2016

Getting My Start

 by Deborah Nielsen

I’ve often credited my high school English teacher, Mrs. Dabney, as the person who got my writing bug off to a good start. However, in the process of cleaning out my late mother’s home, I’ve come to realize that Mrs. Dabney wasn’t the person who got me writing; she helped me to become a better writer and gave me the tools to do so.

While I’ve been sorting through all the things in Mom’s house, I’ve come across several letters she kept from her mother as well as the only letter her father ever wrote her. It was the last packet of letters I found when I realized that the person who really started me to write was my grandmother.

My mother and grandmother wrote weekly letters to each other. It was after a visit to Grandma’s when I was in fourth grade that she said she’d to write me, too, if I wrote her back. Her letters told about what she did that week, the weather, what had happened to my aunts, uncles, cousins, and her friends, and whatever else she thought I might be interested in. They were usually about three to four pages long on lined 6" x 9" Mead writing tablet paper (which you can still find on Amazon, by the way). Coming home from school and finding that envelope laying on my bed was like getting a present, every week. I’d write her back telling her about what I had done that week, the weather, and whatever else I thought she might find interesting.

A few years later, I also started writing to my great aunt, Grandma’s sister, who lived in Montana. My parents and I had gone on a camping trip and stopped to see her. She knew that Grandma and I had been corresponding by letter and she said she’d write me if I wrote to her. Our letters were about once a month and we wrote about similar things. I envied her tales about her frequent camping trips to Glacier National Park. She lived just a few miles from it and loved the out-of-doors and fishing.

Finding those letters among Mom’s things brought back memories. That’s when I realized that I had two wonderful women to thank for getting me started on writing. They’ve both been gone for many years now and I miss their letters as much as them.

There is something about the act of sitting down and putting pen to paper that is very satisfying. Then folding the pages into an envelope, addressing it and gluing on the stamp is a ritual I miss. No longer are there any weekly and monthly presents showing up in my mailbox. Just junk mail and bills. Somehow emails from friends and family just don’t have the same anticipation that receiving a letter in the mail had. Although nowadays when I have to find an envelope and a stamp to mail something I’m quite put out and inconvenienced.

Is there someone special who got you started writing?


April Moore said...

Your post really resonated with me, Deborah. I also credit an English teacher for my love of writing, but I also realized I wrote letters all the time to family when I was young. I used to buy stationery from the Hallmark store near my house and had quite a collection! I also had a few pen pals. Getting their letters in the mail was such a treat.

JC Lynne said...

Letter writing was the thing. I used to WORK at a Hallmark/Stationary store in high school when stationary was considered important. I just recently cleared out a still burgeoning collection.

People fell in love via letters often never meeting. The written word is a powerful thing.

Ah, I remember when....ouch.

Also, Perry Weissman. Still teaching at my former high school.

Lynn said...

I wish I had a letter writing tradition like you did with my grandmother (my paternal grandmother died just before I was born). I trace my writing bug back to my family's business. My paternal grandfather, grandmother and my father all were small town newspaper editors of The Lusk (Wyoming) Herald. My mother worked there too. I guess it should be no mystery, then, that I write primarily nonfiction!

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