Thursday, June 17, 2010

Short-lived Yet Long-lasting

This morning I wrote a letter to S, once the roommate of my husband R--long before R was my husband, even before he was much of a serious boyfriend.

S and I didn't really know each other all that well back then, and still don't. But that didn't matter when I added his name to THE LETTER JAR.

What mattered was that S came through for me in a most unexpected, but truly appreciated, way that I've never forgotten:

I remember going to the room you shared with R, trying to find him because he had told me he would meet me somewhere, but didn't show. R wasn't there, but you were. Now you didn't even have to open the door, much less invite me in and talk to me. But you did, and you very kindly told me that perhaps being involved with R at that point wasn't a good idea.

Now this many years on it probably seems comical--you do not want to date my roommate, seriously!--but in fact it was an incredibly sensitive way you handled it, at the time.

My interaction with S lasted about 15 minutes and happened about 18 years ago. But given we were all in college back then, with so much personal stuff to preoccupy each one of us, it still strikes me that S took a moment to talk to essentially a random girl about her unrequited crush.

Most people in your shoes would have informed me R wasn't there and sent me on my way. That you cared enough to have a conversation sticks with me to this day.

Which has become the point of this project, honestly ... people and the interactions we have with them, long-term or for the briefest of moments, are what are lasting and remembered.

As I noted to S--and he already knew--R and I did reunite many, many years post-college and are actually the quite happy new mom and dad to a 7-month-old and stepmom and dad to a 7-year-old.

While maybe the 20-year-old R wasn't someone I ought to have been involved with, his 38-year-old counterpart is truly a blessing in my life--strong, supportive, sensitive and more loving that I feel I deserve sometimes.

My letter was to S was number 98, and among those first 97 were some pretty long, fairly wide-ranging missives to people I've known most of my life, telling them all the ways I've admired and learned from them. It was refreshing to write a letter with such a singular purpose--to thank the recipient for simply being there at one moment in time. Our interaction was short-lived but its impact was long-lasting.

PACKAGE TRACKING WASN'T AN OPTION: Yesterday I heard an entertaining NPR interview with Jay and Les, who are among the riders reenacting the 150-year-old Pony Express. Who knows how this project might be evolving if a letter took 10 days to get from Missouri to California?

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