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Woman writing on notebook with blue and gold feather pen

Write a letter to someone you love

I moved from Brazil to the US about a year and a half ago, and I was relieved when my 95-year-old grandmother learned to use WhatsApp. We were always profoundly connected, and I thought that the new tool would keep us engaged despite the distance.

Unfortunately, I was never able to keep my Nana involved in our internet chat. I’ve also tried to call, but her hearing is not the same, and she is a bit too vain to use a hearing aid, so the conversations turned out to be a bit confusing and frustrating for both ends.

One day, my uncle told me: “you should write her a letter”.

“A real letter?” – I asked – “Like sending-through-the-post-office kind of letter?”
That was precisely his idea. It made a lot of sense. She had notes I’ve written to her hung with adhesive tape all over her bedroom’s wall, so she would probably appreciate tangible letters. 
Woman writing on notebook with gold color pen
In my teen years, I’d written tons of letters to friends. I even had pen pals – I don’t think young people know what that is anymore. I’ll explain: some people would send their names and addresses to magazines, talking a little bit about themselves and offering themselves to be “correspondence friends”. Looking back, the concept seems weird and risky, but at that time, having friends that lived far away from me seemed like a great way to expand my horizons.

When I sent Nana that first letter, she was thrilled. She spent some time writing me a letter and when she was finally ready to post it, COVID happened, and Brazil went on lockdown.  In Brazil we don’t have post office boxes like here in the US, so there was no other way for her to post my letter, at least for a while.

I guess her frustration made her creativity flourish because one day I received an audio message from her “Hello Princess… I was thinking about taking a picture of my letter and sending it to you”. 
Her sweet voice was like pie crust, crumbled with age. I love her audios. 

And – of course – I agreed with the picture-of-a-letter thing despite its obvious incoherence. If we were going to see it on the cell phone, why not just type? I could imagine her wrinkled fingers expanding the image as her eyes squeeze to read the letter in such an unreasonable way. 
Picture of my grandmother Picture of my grandmother to whom I've been writing letters
This is Nana - How beautiful is she?
I’m not sure what made her prefer that. Maybe it was the hope that one day she would also get the physical letters. Perhaps it was just about the process – she takes weeks to write me back, as she develops a thoughtful answer and makes a clean copy with a beautiful handwritten letter of her many drafts. 
 
The fact is, that picture-of-a-letter became our thing. After one or two, though, considering quarantine and all that it entails – we didn’t have much to discuss, beyond the pandemic. And that’s when I had the idea of asking her things about her past. Questions like: childhood memories, how my grand grandparents were, her life with my grandfather (he passed away about 3 years ago).

And that was interesting, because it was hard for me to picture before the letters, but my grandmother was also a mother. And a daughter. And a student of a school that taught good manners for ladies – something like “how to be a good wife”. Regarding that, she was the wife of an army pilot, and she was almost a widow many years before she became an actual widow, as during world war II my grandfather’s plane was attacked even though he was not on the front. 
 
Because of his pilot’s life she also lived in many places, as changing cities was pretty common. She had four children, each one in a different city. She lived with little money, and she also experienced wealth. She was a highly skilled cook, but an even more skilled seamstress. She made many dresses for my aunt and my mom.
My favorite penpal is my grandmother
Me and Nana - best friends forever
Funny thing, as I wrote her letters, I always pictured an old movie projector – that really old one that used reels. I could even hear the cracked sound and that grainy, full of light leaks images we would get from old school cameras. I feel a bit brainwashed as I also smelled popcorn, but that buttery smell is so good that I’ll just go with it.

She told me about the gardener that would come to her mother’s house, and that taught her how to care for plants. She loves flowers deeply. So much so that her signature contains a flower. Yes. Whenever she signs checks and contracts and letters, she includes a flower. Recently she was trying to contact the bank, as her hands got weaker, she wanted to use just the flower. They didn’t accept it, even though that flower tells more about her than her name, anyway.

She told me about other happy moments, people she admired, and also about the downers and how much she misses my grandfather.

As I collected all that information, I thought how much they were worth writing about. I wondered if I was ever going to exchange vintage emulated messages with my granddaughter. And what stories will I tell? I better start living some good ones.
 
Anyway, I can’t get enough of her letters and I hope I inspired you to write someone a thoughtful letter… in the end, I gotta say, Nana knows best: handwritten is better. there’s just something special about it.
Flat lay photo of floral notebook near polka dots pen and cactus with white background

p.s.: When I sent this text to my e-mail list, I got the following amazing story. I thought it was worth sharing:

“I just wanted to share with you how I met my husband.

At the age of 13 I was pen pals with David. He lived on Rhodesia now Zimbabwe and I lived in South Africa. We wrote to each other for sometime but then lost contact.
 
Years later my mum saw an advert for someone looking for a pen pal and suggested I wrote to this person. I wasn’t interested as I had a little daughter from a previous relationship and it wasn’t a very pleasant one.
 
However, my mum wrote on my behalf pretending to be me. As it happened the person she wrote to received so many letters and were too many for him to answer. He said to his friend to take the letter in the blue envelope as all the others were in white envelopes. The friend eventually took the letter and read it. The letter was the one from my mum and the friend was David. He then wrote back saying his friend had so many letters and would I mind if he David wrote to me.
 
When I received the letter from him I realized I knew this person and asked if he was the chap I wrote to all those years ago? DaviS also found his little black book that still had my name, address and hobbies written in it. We met in December 1980 and were married a year later.
 
That’s 40 years ago.
 
Just thought I would share that with you.”
 

I LOVE THIS STORY! Do you have any amazing story to share? Insert on the comments!

p.p.s.: I’ve had a small article published at Entity Magazine, just a collection of quotes, but it would mean the world to me for you to comment there and support me! https://www.entitymag.com/ten-must-read-quotes-edith-eger-new-book-gift/ 

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