Thursday, June 24, 2010

Letter Fail?!?

Last night I finished a letter to J, someone I definitely consider a friend despite having met her in person just once.

J and I have both participated for a long time--J longer than I--on a message board for stepmothers. As I told her in the letter I wrote--I am always moved by how much she cares for other people. She shares in others' joy, sympathizes in their disappointments and is indignant when any of her friends have been wronged. She always knows just what to say (or not to say, when a cyber hug is really what is needed).

I related how glad I was that I decided a year and a half ago to drive from Chicago to Toledo and meet up with her and another stepmom in a hotel parking lot, so we could then all drive to the Central Ohio home of yet another stepmother who was hosting a get together.We had so much fun and such great conversation that day.

In my letter I told J her how the connections I have with her and the dozens of other stepmothers on the message board, despite being Web-based, underscore the biggest lesson of this project: relationships matter. The people we come to know--even in cyberspace--and how they affect us, and we them, count more than anything in this life.

At this point in the letter it dawned on me that I hadn't actually checked in on the message board for awhile. J has (perhaps wisely) avoided Facebook and Twitter, so I haven't seen any news about her.

Sitting there with pen and paper, I realized that while there was probably nothing wrong with telling J how thankful I was for the past connections we've made online and in-person, it was possible that I should also be acknowledging some big event in her life, except I didn't know about the big event. I decided to find out.


I just realized I hadn't checked in on [the message board] in a while (mostly mommy-ing is keeping me busy, some work too) and here I am all "yadda yadda yadda" without really knowing what's up in your life now. So I went to lurk and find out.

You got married!!!!

Congratulations, even if I'm about 90 days behind the curve ... Please forgive me for being so ignorant for the first three pages of this letter--I really wanted to tell you what a wonderful person I think you are and didn't stop to think there might have been big changes for you.

I was mortified at this point, and wondering if I should even send the letter. But at its core, this project is about being honest and authentic, even when that means revealing how woefully oblivious I can be. Starting over--and pretending I knew from the outset about her nuptials--would be deceitful. I trust that J will forgive (and even lightheartedly mock--her sense of humor was something else I acknowledged in my letter) my oversight.

I'm also reminding myself that, when snail mail was all we had, I wouldn't have necessarily known about J's wedding (she eloped with her beloved, so there were no invitations) as I wrote my letter. I would have written to her,, told her what was up with me and, weeks or months later, I would have received her letter saying, "I got married." I wouldn't have to feel bad about not already knowing. In these days when so many of us pour out our life details--usually far less monumental than wedding announcements--on social media with all the restraint of a 24-hour news channel, such delayed information may be quaint but, as far as I'm concerned, it's also welcome.

MUST READ: I have been following One Pilot's War on Twitter. His bio: "My grandfather sent over 1500 letters home during WWII. These are those letters." What amazing and eloquent letters. To touch such a lovely part of your family history must be so incredible. Read the letters at the blog.

1 comment:

Meg said...

Relationships definitely do matter. I'm sure J will appreciate/has appreciated your letter just the same, and you're right: before many of our personal lives were broadcast on a variety fo social media platforms, you might have discovered J got married through a phone call, gossip from a mutual friend, or through a traditional letter. But without the Internet? Well, you might not have met J at all. Technology is a beautiful thing. :)