Friday, September 18, 2015
When I looked in the box, I thought it would be a good idea to commemorate my past by creating an Afro (for my Afros365 blog) out of the used stamps from the envelopes, since the stamps are the first thing I noticed. So, I put a few of them to the side and, during my break, I began emptying the envelopes and tearing the stamps off.
One envelope in particular caught my eye because it had my grandmother's address label in the corner. I flipped it over, ready to pull the letter out when the first thing I see is a five dollar bill peeking out. I immediately dropped the letter and became overwhelmed. Not with sadness because my grandmother is no longer with me. She died November 9, 2001 (not too long after 9-11-2001). She was my other parent. My confident. My best friend. And I love her so much. No, I was overwhelmed with joy. To Mari Kondo: This envelope and its contents definitely "sparked joy."
I can't remember ever feeling this way in all my life. All of my good memories of my grandma came rushing in at me like a wave just hit me on the beach. Salty, painful but exhilarating. For a full 5 minutes or so, I cried. And I didn't want to stop it. It was immediate and urgent and I didn't want to let go of the feeling. Normally, when I am about to cry, I'm trying to, unsuccessfully, contain it and keep it from pouring out. But not this time. At any rate, it was too sudden for me to have a chance to think about it. I couldn't touch the envelope or even look at it for a few minutes.
When I got my composure (with the help of a friend who read one of the letters out loud and made me laugh), I read the letter and two others that were just like it and also had $5 in them. Mary Alice Lewis Buster was an amazing woman. Not only did she take the time to write her granddaughter over seas, but she placed money in them. Money that she didn't have to give. I don't know why I never spent the money. Maybe because I knew she was retired and living on a fixed income. Maybe I wanted to treasure something that she so willingly gave me. Or maybe because it reminded me of her giving heart and I wanted to hold on to that part of her.
My grandma has always been that way towards me. No matter what she had, she shared with me. She was always there for me. Even when I made unsound decisions, she supported those decisions. When I came home from Italy, my grandma surprised me (and other family members) with a t-shirt she had specially made for me. It said "Been there, done that." And it had a list of all of the cities I'd visited while abroad. (I wore that shirt so much, it became tattered and ragged.) My aunts and uncles shirts' had the words "my niece" at the top and my mom's had "my daughter." And, of course, she had one that said "my granddaughter." She was so proud of me. I had gotten her a tote bag with the word Rome on it and a t-shirt and I took a picture of her with that bag. She had the biggest brightest smile. It was one of my favorite Christmases.
Legacy isn't about the things, although things sometimes help trigger memories. But it's the memories themselves that we hold so dear. I have touched or come across items that belonged to my grandma over the years and none have caused the passionate reaction I just had with that letter. Those other items were not about an interaction between she and I. Her jewelry came from other people or her personal purchases. Her scarves, though lovely, were things she wore for her pleasure. Pictures, blankets, clothing, photo books and picture frames are all nice and I held on to them because they were hers, but not because they spark joy in me. However, the letters were her personal thoughts to me. They were her responses to conversations we'd shared over the phone and via other letters. They represent the interactions that we'd shared during the time I had with her.
I love my grandma from this day till the next and the next thereafter. And I don't have to feel guilty for letting go of some of her material things. After all, she did. I have all of my fond memories. And I have a few items, like these three letters, that I will always treasure. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being in my life grandma. I love you.
In our present world of emails, social media, instant messaging, etc., what would be more special than to write someone you love a handwritten, snail-mailed letter. I don't recommend sending things with monetary value through the mail but there are many ways to make it special like decorating the borders of the paper or sending a few photos that relate to you and the receiver. You never know what someone will treasure after you've passed along.