Tuesday, June 28, 2016
by Rick Blechta
When I moved to Canada to finish my university education (and also live with my best girl – who is still my best girl!), I began to get a series of letters from my mother. She enjoyed writing letters and phone calls were expensive for both of us. The internet and Skype weren’t even a twinkle in a computer programmer's eye. Right up until the end, my mom enjoyed sending and receiving letters.
Now I’d had the occasional letter from Mom when I was away at camp or visiting relatives, but those university letters came about every two weeks, and while chatty about family goings-on at home, we also discussed more weighty topics on occasion.
Yes, I wrote back, and those early letters are certainly the genesis of my still-active letter writing career – although now I’m more tempted to use email when rushed.
Anyway, I curious thing soon began to manifest itself during those university letters home: my mother began sending back my letters to her fully edited and annotated on areas that needed improving!
To say the least, I was furious, and we all no nothing burns hotter than the fire of indignation in a 20-year-old. I didn’t send another letter for weeks. Mom's came with the same regularity. Finally, home for Christmas, I told her how angry I was. “Never expect another letter from me!”
Mom was not the most laid-back of people and shot right back: “I only did it to help you improve your writing. Someone in university shouldn't be making those types of mistakes.”
Hmmm… Hadn’t thought of that.
Letter writing resumed (after an additional three weeks to show I hadn’t been cowed or forgiven her easily). This time, though, I worked over my letters in a first draft, correcting and improving before writing a final copy in pen to send to her. Very few letters were returned with suggested edits.
Some time during the intervening years, I lost/threw out/misplaced those letters and I sort of wish I now had them, not that they have much in the way of information that I would want but more as a connection with my long-dead mother and see how stupidly I saw the world in my twenties when I knew so much more than I do now
The reason this episode in my chequered life came to mind is because I found a recipe card in my mother’s distinctive hand and it got me thinking about her. She might not have always used the correct approach, but she meant well.
And she passed on her editing mania to me. I restrain myself with corrections to my own childrens’ writing as much as I can, but the sharp knives come out with no compunctions or quarter given when I’m working over my own writing. And I truly enjoy the process of “getting it right!”