Today I sorted through my letter box.
It's an old tin box, red, with clear plastic on the lid because it came, once-upon-a-birthday, with a watch in it that had Pooh Bear on the face and tiny hands that went round and round in solemn duty. It has yellow bumblebees on it, flying in lazy circles and it strikes me occasionally that it is childish and I hardly care because it has always been my letter box. Ever since we moved to Colorado and I started writing letters to my cousin.
I've gone through it before and gotten rid of old letters, letters that had no power any more because they were silly child-letters about nothing and they didn't even make me smile anymore. But today I sat with that box on my lap in the hot sun outside and pulled them out one by one and read them through. I untied the tightly bound packet of letters years old and let them speak their words over me like I have not done in a long while.
I wish sometimes that I could see my own letters that prompted such replies, but for some letters I am glad that I cannot because I would probably do what my friend Ally jokes about and write all on top "Silly little girl moment". And I have enough of those in the journals I have yet to sort through.
Today I threw away letters from a girl I was friend-ish with in Colorado. I didn't even read them. When I saw her return address label on the envelope and I had no face with which to connect the name and no memory of affection for her I didn't even try. They had no power.
But there were other packets, one from Demi while she was in Japan that welled up my eyes and I could hardly read for the blurriness of her cursive through my longing. There were two from my little sister on birthdays that made me laugh out loud, hard, and sweet old letters from Ally on various occasions that were too lovely to throw out. And I was amazed that the lines of ink on paper in familiar curved handwriting could have so much power as to make me laugh or cry.
Today felt like closure I thought I had on that long ago time when we lived in the land where the earth slopes like a bowl and all round you the mountains rise to meet the sky. I was amazed when I read letters from even eighth grade, that I am not that girl anymore and I hardly recognize the girl to whom my friends wrote. Today felt like the frivolity and foolishness of childhood winging to the wind and I was sometime glad to see it go, fly away, don't look back. I don't want to be you anymore, oh silly child of ten, twelve, thirteen. I don't want your thoughts anymore, your dramas or your dreams.
How is it that we can be different people from those we were before and yet be still the same - made of the same flesh and bone and still the same heart beating under our skin? How is it that we can learn so much and yet our follies cling to us but grow and change in form as we grow? How is it that we can despise them when we look back and fail to see them in us still?
Always when I throw away old things I wonder what it will be five years from now, that I treasure presently but shall throw away without thought then. I wonder what I hold to with tight fingers interlocked that I shall one day laugh at and toss away without pain.
And yet all the time we have is today, to give thanks for and choose to take as holy, given of God.
Today I whisper goodbye to letters that I do not love and treasure up the ones I do, wrap them tight in string, put them in the now half-empty box.
And leaning back in my chair I gaze up, look ahead to letters making their way from Chicago to California and back the same way, to new words of old friendships, lovingly spun. I pray for courage to write true words and beautiful words of myself, not of who I want to be or who I think I am but the person that Christ has set down in and bound up in this skin.
I pray to be a woman of grace and dignity and truth and gentleness. I pray to be always beneath my skin a child of wonder but not of folly. I pray to know always that I have much much more to learn.
So I ask -
that words would root me down and build in me
strata of meaning and depth
hold me down when storms come to buffet.
That the winds would widen me and the waters would deepen me,
and the songs grow me to stretch
for the higher stars and all their wild-eyed delight.
That I would be "child" no longer,
but "woman" and that with weight,
not with lightness, with joy
and not frivolity, with dignity and yet