Saturday, May 2, 2015

Love Letters

I recently had the pleasure of a visit with a remarkable woman. She has ninety-one years of experience on this earth, and seems to have lived each one fully. She showed me a map of all the places she and her husband traveled in their Airstream trailer, and it included every state except Hawaii and several places in Canada. Pictures and souvenirs of their life together cover the walls of her house.

I asked her how a farm girl from Illinois happened to meet a boy from the Texas panhandle. It seems she was in St. Louis, working as a secretary for the Air Force (Army Air Corp then, I believe) and they needed a typist to accompany an investigation team to Amarillo. She was single, and so eligible to go. She went to check into the hotel for the first time in her life. In the lobby, a good-looking airman tried to strike up a conversation, but prudently, she wouldn’t give him her name. He convinced her to go to dinner across the street, though. She wasn't sure who he talked to, but he managed to find out her name and all about her.

Three days later, she returned home, but this airman didn’t give up easily. He wrote letters and called her on the phone once a week. She said he was shy and didn't talk much, but he wrote beautiful letters. Eventually, he asked her to marry him. Her mother suggested she might want to meet his family before agreeing, so she and a friend traveled to his hometown in Texas and he came to meet her family. They were married for fifty-seven years.

As a writer, I’m awed by this story. There is something special about discovering a real, paper letter waiting in the mailbox, hiding among the bills and junk mail. It's like a little packet of love. Still, imagine inspiring someone to fall in love with you with the words on a page. From now on as I write, this is the gold standard I'll keep in mind. In the meantime, I just might write an actual paper letter or two. How about you?