Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Year of Dear John Letters

Welcome to my Countdown to Christmas Series. To start at the beginning, click here.  I sent my deployed fiance a box with a paper, pin-up Christmas tree and 24 small packages, one for each day until Christmas. Daily (or nearly daily) I will be blogging about the day's surprise!

Whenever my students complain about writing assignments-- which they do a great deal, I get righteously indignant. Writing is not just busy work. Writing is power. Writing changes lives.

John and I met in our college marching band, and we became friends fairly quickly. We ended up going on a date my sophomore year, which completely bombed. It was all my fault-- but that's a story for another time. John graduated, and then I graduated and we continued our friendship online-- chatting fairly frequently on AOL Instant Messenger (I feel so old typing that sentence!). John asked me out on another date. Again, I ruined it, and again, that's a story for another time. And yes, I, in fact, had a crush (of varying degrees) on John throughout college. I really wasn't trying to ditch him. I just had (and continue to have) no game whatsoever.

Being a normal, rational human being, he figured that I wasn't interested, and our friendship pretty much ended after the second-date-that-never-was. There was no animosity-- we just stopped talking to each other for about a year and a half. 

And then, John went to boot camp, and his brother posted his address on Facebook.  I wrote John a really painfully awkward letter and let it sit on my kitchen counter for a few days. It sounds exceptionally dramatic, but I swear to you, I knew that if I sent the letter, something  life-changing would happen.  

Eventually, I dropped the letter in the mail, and after a few weeks, I opened my mailbox to find a letter from John. It melted my heart. I fell in love with John months later, but I fell in love with his writing immediately. I wrote another back, and he wrote back, and soon we were on the phone for five to six hours every night (after he was finished with boot camp, of course).

Letters are still incredibly important in our relationship. After two-and-a-half years, I own two boxes full of John's letters that sit on the top shelf of my closet (and I'm filling a third now). There might be 150-200 in them, all told. John has just as many, if not more from me.

When John found out he was deployed, I decided to send him a letter a day for a year for a variety of reasons. Part of it was the challenge and discipline of doing something every single day for a year, but most of it was because I wanted him to have something to look forward to-- a tangible connection between the two of us. I love knowing that, even though there are 7,000 miles separating us, he can open the envelope and take out a letter that only I have touched. It's an old school and slow method of communication in a high-tech, instant gratification world, but it fits us completely. We're pretty old school, and it definitely took us long enough to finally get together. (But every moment waiting is completely worth it-- both before we were dating and now during this deployment. Completely worth it.)

For this ornament, I designed a letter to look a little like what I send John. In the lower right-hand corner of every envelope I send, I mark the number of the letter, so he can open and read them in order. Currently, I'm writing him #192 tonight, but I thought it was much better to embroider #365 for the facsimile. It's much more hopeful and happier that way; once he gets letter #365, he'll be home for good!

Check out the template, and make a letter ornament yourself! You could address it to Santa to make it more Christmas-y! If you do, send me a photo! I'd love to see how it turns out for you, and I'll post it on the blog!

post signature