At the weekend, my children were rummaging around in the loft, and stumbled across a bag of love letters I’d collected over the years – mainly from my time at university and periods in my life when I worked abroad. Phew. What an emotional journey re-opening them. In fact some I couldn’t bear to read as the first lines reminded me that they’d been written to me after I’d finished with someone.
Oh the pain. The heartbreak of unrequited love. Most of us know it well. Strange to think that someone, somewhere might one day stumble across old letters they have kept from me, telling them how much I cared or putting on a brave face after I’d been ditched. (Hmm. Brave face. Not sure I ever did that very well.)
Yet, at the same time, it heartened me to remember those men fondly – to remember how, in my youth, I’d loved and been loved in return. The funny little drawings on letters brought a smile to my cheeks. Oh, the carefree life I used to lead with not much more to worry about than tomorrow’s lectures or what time to meet my girlfriends for a gossip about the latest chapter of our love lives.
Out of respect to the men involved, I vetted the letters, but the snippets my teenage children did read made us all sad that today’s youth will miss out on collecting these expressions of love. Those little post-it notes, saying “I miss you” or “ignore this note, I might be drunk”! Messages like that are now sent by text and can easily be deleted when the end of a relationship looms. Plus hand drawings can’t be included. On mine were funny faces and bunches of flowers, huge kisses, tiny ones, loopy hearts… all those things that personalize a message and make them special. Typing letters is so clinical and true romance can’t fully be conveyed by computer emoticons.
I particularly treasure the ones sent to me by a Parisian boyfriend. I can’t understand all of them now – my French isn’t what it was. But I feel a warm glow at the pet names we used to call each other and the private jokes we shared. What’s more, reading about our escapades makes me realize just how much I’ve matured.
I’m not that person anymore and, in retrospect, would have handled some of those relationships differently. Yet the mistakes I’ve made have made me who I am – hopefully a woman who is more assertive when needed, as well as being more sensitive to the romantic feelings of others.
So, I am glad I’ve kept them, along with the ones from platonic male pals, best friends and relatives. They make for a snapshot of my life back then. It’s nice to remember the footloose fun – yet take stock of the settled, happy life I now enjoy. Plus to read notes from much-loved ones who’ve since passed on.
So next time you think of texting your other half with some flirty message, why not tear off a post-it instead. Draw a fun picture, accompanied by some good old-fashioned handwriting. It’s a physical representation of your affection, that can’t be archived by some Big Brother watchman. It’s here forever, just like the deep-seated memories. It can’t be destroyed by time.