A few days ago, my nine year old daughter received a letter in the mail. It was from her last year’s teacher. Now, my children are in a smallish Montessori school, which means that they switch teachers and classrooms only every three years, and each of these transitions is somewhat of a big deal. Both my kids are transitioning between “houses” over the summer, and so it was natural and touching for Miss Holly to jot a note to Windsor telling her she would be missed, come and visit, and hope her summer was going well.
Windsor came in the front door grinning, because who doesn’t love to get honest-to-goodness mail, set the bills and junk-mail down, and tore into the envelope. She was touched by the letter, I could see, and felt special. She told me who the letter was from, let me read it, and then took the note, walked past me, disappeared into her room and shut the door. Within twenty minutes she was back by my side, where I was now doing something in the kitchen, and she wondered, Mom, could she have a mailing stamp and what did I think that said for Miss Holly’s return address road? I fished the stamp out from our bill folder, handed it to her and–to my utter surprise–she stuck it on the front of an already-addressed and sealed letter, walked out the front door and down the drive, and dropped the blasted thing in the mailbox with the flag up.
You’ve got to be kidding me, right?
Aren’t things like that an event?
Doesn’t it take time and effort to respond to a nice letter?
Didn’t she have to think about it?
Plan it out?
Miss the intended date and then feel guilty about it?
It was one of those lessons that they say come to you “out of the mouth of babes” or “when you have children,” the “be as one of these” scenario. Here I am, day after day with my heaped-on-heap list of things to do, weighing the must-dos with the must-do-nows, toppling my bucket lists for the tyranny of the urgent, and sighing myself to sleep at night cuddled up with the beasts of regret, intentions, and unrealistic expectations. And she–and she!–just thought, “I should write her back,” and found the accessible tools and wrote a simple response and popped it in the mail. I can’t quite aptly express to you just how much someone like me has her mind blown by this scenario.
Let’s break it down.
She found the accessible tools. There was no trip to the stationary store. There was no jotting of the trip to the stationary store on the calendar. There was no telling herself to remember to later jot on the calendar a trip to the stationary store. She found a blank card or some nice paper, fluffed it up a bit, and grabbed a pen out of her pen cup. Then she made a trip all the way to the other end of the house for a plain envelope, the kind you might mail a check in. Holy moly! Why have I never thought of this? Why have I been making such a big, freaking deal out of things when I often have the resources right there in front of me? Who cares if they aren’t theme- or occasion-perfect? If it’s going to still express care to someone or get me the same results and I have it on hand, for pity’s sake…! Let’s just cut through all the freakin’ fanfare…! (I can no longer finish my sentences, I am so overwhelmed.)
She wrote a simple response. You know, like the old acronym; Keep It Simple, Stupid. Windsor is known for her lovely, hand-made cards and gifts, but somehow she still doesn’t expect a masterpiece out of every card. She wanted to reach back out to her teacher, thank her, and share the warmth of her feelings. This did not, in this case, require glitter, stickers, lace, doilies, scrapbook paper, stencils, stamps, a mixed CD, a Power Point, a parade, or a circus. I can’t tell you how many times lately I have let some odd expectation build up in my head until I think it might explode, and a few times I just sent one itty-bitty text and the whole thing shrunk back to size, like I had popped a hole in a giant balloon. I was going to save up money, research restaurants, interview friends for the perfect gift, buy a small gift, wrap it, and take someone out to lunch, when what I wanted to accomplish was managed with a look in someone’s eyes and a few heartfelt words. OMgoodness. I, again, am at a loss for words.
She popped it in the mail. I don’t even know if she slid her shoes on. She just did it. And I could once again underline the lack of fanfare and the simplicity of the whole thing, but this time I want to concentrate on her attitude. She just popped it in the mail. Like tra-la-la. She might of skipped. She often does, her extremely long, blonde hair trailing out behind her and her twenty-neon-colored tennies with her mismatched socks blurring by. Sometimes, doing things as an adult is made much more difficult than it needs to be, simply by our mindset, our attitude. It’s called, of course, “building something up in your head.” I have had a lot of this going on lately, as my husband and I have reorganized six out of ten of the rooms of our house, and are working on the seventh and eighth. By the time you have a chest-high stack of papers and office supplies blocking entry to the laundry room, you also have what we know as a mind game. There are crasser words for it. And when you think of the project, even think of thinking of it, your whole body tightens up like a cat on a ridgepole. You can’t even imagine managing the pile. How could you? Where would you start? Why did you do this in the first place? What have you done? It will just have to stay there forever, and you can take the dirty clothes to the laundromat, until one day you go to reach for the next Harry Potter and the whole thing comes crashing down, breaking both your legs and burying you so that you can’t get to the phone and when they finally find you, you have suffocated and everyone’s embarrassed to come to the funeral because who dies like that, in their own filth? Arrrrgh! It’s a deal, alright; I’ll give you that. It’s re-organizing the office. But it’s only that. And what it most certainly is NOT, is your worth. Take one from Windsor. She’s not losing any sleep over a letter that wasn’t written.
Which, ironically, makes her the mostly likely to have the letter written, sealed, and sent.
Sweet dreams, Win. And you, dear reader, take one from me and my being the mother of some wonderful kids: when you have some sort of writing project, use the accessible tools, keep is simple, and pop it in the mail. Because Windsor is working on her novel, and if you can’t get your stuff together before she turns ten, she’s going to steal your agent and your publisher.