I grew up seeing handwritten notes as expressions of love. My mom worked long hours so she often left small, square papers on the bed for my sister and me to find. Sometimes it was just a smiley face, other times she simply wrote the words “love you” in ordinary ballpoint pen, but it was more than enough.
Starting in elementary school, my mom requested I write notes to my grandma who lived a few hours away. What I loved the most is that Grandma always wrote back. The excitement I felt when I looked in the mailbox and saw a letter in my grandma’s shaky letters never disappeared. Even in college when there were tests to study for and social gatherings to attend, I took time to sit on my narrow bed and read my grandma’s letters the moment they arrived. By studying her handwriting, I could almost tell how she’d been feeling that day. In the end, her manuscript became barely legible. Those notes are now treasures.
I’ll never forget when the guy I was dating my senior year in college had a family emergency and to take a sudden trip home. Sometime during the middle of the night, he’d dropped off a handwritten note telling me why he had to leave. A handwritten note of this nature from this particular guy seemed like a really big deal, and I felt incredibly excited by it. I tucked it away for safekeeping not knowing that note would be the first of many special letters from my husband.
The words, “I’m proud of you,” from my dad written in his signature black felt-tip pen, birthday notes from friends containing funny memories, and cards from my former students written in precious kid penmanship are all lifelines I can’t bear to throw away.
But I have to tell you, my greatest lifelines have come from my youngest daughter, Avery. Around the time I woke up to the fact that I was missing my life, my daughter was learning to write words. As I took small steps to be more present in her life, she began writing me love notes. Although I’m sure the timing was purely coincidently, these powerful visuals fueled my steps to let go of distraction and perfection.