Relationships Through Letter Writing

Getting personal letters in the mail is such a fun experience. Something I’ve enjoyed through the years. When I was in middle school I was linked to a Japanese pen pal. This might have been my initial experience of letter writing and the U.S. Postal Service. My pen pals name was Youko, I could tell by her letters and the photo she sent me that  I was writing to a rich & refined girl. She described a life I couldn’t even imagine. I truly don’t remember what I wrote to her. I definitely didn’t have any cute pics of myself looking poised and reflective, or any pics at all come to think of it. I did however enjoy the whole idea of my apa bringing home a letter addressed to me, I liked it so much that I kept writing back.

Writing letters, buying stamps and putting them in the mail for delivery is almost a thing of the past. That makes me sad and I am making an effort to keep the letter writing tradition alive between me and my grandchildren. This was initiated by my 5 year old nietecito, Braye, who told me he wanted to be my pen pal. How could I deny such a request? Oh, that I might water that seed and one day still receive letters from my 15 year old Braye.  

You know what else is so enjoyable and also emotional? Rereading the letters you’ve received through the years. Minimalists might not encourage you to do this, but I’ve saved many of the letters I’ve received through the years. This has helped me through my mourning journeys. Letters from mis hermanos y hermanas. Letters from my mother in law, letters from dear friends and letters from my love. 

I’ve said it already, but it’s worth repeating, girls love to talk and letter writing is a way to talk without interruptions. However, when you are done talking in the letter, waiting for a response kills you! I am embarrassed to admit that I’m an impatient conversationalist, I tend to interrupt, or not wait for a response to the question I asked, so letter writing has definitely built character and patience in me. Dicen por hay, that “patience is a virtue” 

My relationship with my suegra was long distance, mostly through letters. She also saved her letters, when she passed they came back to me. I have found myself nervously laughing or shuddering at my style. I expressed myself in too familiar a tone with my dear mother-in-law. My ama would reprove me, que malcriada! In my defense, I was not trying to be disrespectful, I was attempting to balance two cultures and sound…. casual? Sauve? And I especially wanted her to know my new role was very comfortable, and it was, except for in-law adjustments. Just reading “Dear Nancy” still seems too casual.

In the old, old days letters were much more formal and when I wrote letters in spanish they were also quite proper. For some of the spanglishers or non spanish speakers here’s a thought on manners that I haven’t quite translated well. You is translated usted which would be used to show respect or formality toward a stranger or an older person or perhaps clergy. Then, when you’re familiar with a person, we use with people of the same level age, rank, or friendship. All that to say that to call my mother in-law by her first name felt squeamish. However, it did not stop me from writing and relating to my suegra, and her responses kept our letters flowing.

WESTPAC

There was a time when it felt like receiving letters was critical to my very existence! Porque? because immediately following our fireworks engagement, I had to experience a long separation from my fiance, mi amor, my comprometido. I didn’t know much about the engagement process, but I knew we had a marriage to prepare for and a wedding to plan and it would have to be done from a distance. 

I braced myself for a west pac separation, Ben was on an Landing Craft Unit: LCU within the USS Juneau,  a deployment that consisted of port stops into Hawaii, Guam, Hong Kong, Korea, Philippines, and Australia. It was Bens dream to see the world and these beautiful places, but things had changed. He was leaving his girl behind. Meanwhile, being apart affirmed the idea that I screamed in my head that I could not make it as a military wife. All my fears were crowding in on me.  Miedo que se iba a olvidar de mí, scared that his mom would reject me. Afraid that maybe… Anyway, ya te imaginas, it was the longest six months of my life! Those few days before my flaco left, there were few words spoken, he couldn’t find any and I was choking with too many emotional words. We agreed that I would focus on our simple wedding (another time I’ll tell you about that planning, or lack of planning) and he was going to save money to get ready for all the upcoming expenses. This plan would keep me busy and  time would fly by. 

Love Letters

Going to the mailbox and seeing letters from my sailor brought inexplicable joy. 

Writing to my Benjamin was kind of like talking to him in person!  I unloaded it all, all my fears and concerns. Days and sometimes weeks passed before I “heard him speak”. My sailors FPO address made deliveries interesting since they were in the middle of the ocean and I imagine mail was delivered between ports. When mail did get delivered I would receive it in bundles all at once, then nothing for days. While he received letters all mixed up in dates. We ended up resorting to numbering each letter to keep track.

We were young and I was a typical novia, the important things were: 1. Do you still love me? 2. Do you really miss me? 3. What shall we do about our wedding planning?  Through all letters our common faith in God was the glue that kept us focused and hopeful.

I knew it was going to be hard. In fact, even though I hadn’t experienced it yet, I knew I would barely survive and to think he still had two more years to go in the Navy. All you military wives with years of experience are probably chuckling or rolling in carcajadas at my imagination, verdad que si?!  What memories come up in your mind as you read this?

I say hats off to military wives who endure these separations and keep their family boat afloat during these deployments. Thank you also for your sacrifice.

When I was rereading the other day, the 55 year old mature me, was bien avergonzada at my chillona, rogona letters. My goodness, I really believed it was all about me! Besides telling me very often how much he loved and missed me, he resorted to throwing in some Tagalog and spanish. He called me “maganda”, and I was like Que?! I was his beautiful Rose, I melted and embraced it.

So began our long distance engagement. He reassured me often, calling me darling and his dearest, making me yearn for him. I declared my hopeless devotion in an overboard manner. I quote, “ Benjamin I love you so much…this countdown is making me crazy, it makes me think of you TOO MUCH… When we get married, Ben, I’ve got so many hopes and dreams and I’m believing God for them to come true…I can’t wait till you come home.”

I asked a million questions that he had no answers for, pero, when I asked about a wedding budget. I quote “I have no idea the costs or the arrangements you have made with the exception of the cake, but let’s, if we can keep it under $400.00. That really should be plenty, I hope.” Daniella and I had a nice little laugh at this recollection, when planning her wedding he offered similar sentiment assuring her that $3,000 should cover the costs. If you know anything about planning a wedding, you can imagine the horrified look we shared. Needless to say the princess prevailed and she had a beautiful wedding.

Almost 33 years later Ben and I had a wonderful chuckle at young Benjamin Greene at sea, the ocean waves had lulled his senses.

In conclusion: 

In this day and age, an email and or a text is the closest some people get to receiving “a letter in the mail” I know that my grandkids love to “get mail” and so do I! I encourage you to write a nice love letter to your amor and your amorcitos. While you’re at it, consider writing a letter to a soldier that’s out to sea, Ben appreciated receiving letters; especially the ones from me, his comprometida.

Acuerdense, be extra nice to your mail carrier, they work hard to get that mail to you.

waiting for my sailor
welcome home at last

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