I learned to write thank you notes at a very early age. In fact, I think I learned to read and write before kindergarten because of thank you notes to various relatives and playmates for every occasion imaginable. It was a forced activity, initially. Folded construction paper of hastily scrawled letters in crayon on one side and an amateur sparkle-paint drawing of the gift I had received on the other. When I discovered that my aunts, uncles, grandparents, and friends really enjoyed receiving one of my creations, I knew I had hit a gold mine….literally. Money and more gifts usually followed the receipt of one of my letters by an extended family member. Parents of classmates found me to be such a good child that I was assured invitations to their homes for many years. This image was something I treasured, especially during adolescence when I became a rather reckless and wanton outcast.
In retrospect, letter writing became a way for me to avoid intimate and face-to-face contact with others. It became, and still is, my crutch, and I am a willing cripple – amusing, sarcastic, ironic, and irreverent. I did not fully understand my choice of self-imposed exile from the real world, when I first realized the power of pencil put to paper. I instinctively understood that I was far more effective at communicating if I used my hand and not my mouth. I lived inside my head and could not tolerate interruptions that are the bane of conversing with others. By the time I graduated from high school, I had rejected anything more than surface relationships and became more and more socially awkward and inept. Perhaps I should have developed the art of listening and trusting and sharing words in close proximity to warm-blooded homo-sapiens. Perhaps I could still reach out and be present and accounted for amongst the peoples of this planet….I’d rather write.
My craft and passion for letter writing began when I was in the first grade at a small Catholic school in a New Jersey farming community. I learned that a good letter could produce results, though not always the desired one. It was 1963, I had just turned seven, and God began to speak to me personally. The Word of God is a powerful force and I shared His decrees with the confidence and joy of being chosen. And so it began…..
January 16, 1963
God loves me.God hatesyou.
January 17, 1963
January 17, 1963
Mom hit my writing hand
With a ruler.