Monday, June 8, 2009

Unread Letters

My oldest daughter is nearing her 12th birthday much to my chagrin. I keep telling her to stop growing up but she just won't listen to me! Last week she spent five days with her school class in Valley Forge. As in Pennsylvania. As in the opposite coast from where we live. When I first heard about this trip I was more than a little nervous about my little girl being so far away and I doubted she would even want to go. The school offered a week long program at home for those who wished to opt out and since she is kind of a home body and not very adventurous I thought she might like that option. We talked about her going to Valley Forge if my husband could go along as one of the chaperone parents, but it didn't work out. To my amazement, she said she wanted to go to Valley Forge anyway. It was a year before the trip. Surely she would change her mind as the trip got closer. When it was time to do all the paper work and start spending large sums of money she still insisted she would be fine, she really wanted to go. "Okay," I thought, "but she is going to get really homesick and miss her mom and dad." As the week of the trip neared and we were gathering and packing all the last minute items on the check list (I added a family picture to the list) she kept gushing about how excited she was! "She doesn't know what it's like to be away that long; the nights will be harder than she thinks," I worried.

The weekend before she left, my husband and I were on an anniversary trip. I happened to bring along a random information sheet about her trip and noticed for the first time we could send letters to our children in advance. What a great idea! I used the hotel stationary and both my husband and I wrote lengthy descriptions of everything we were seeing and doing along with advice for being homesick. I admonished her, "You'll be home soon enough so try to enjoy this experience as much as you can!" The letters I sent from the hotel would only cover the first couple days of her trip and I forgot to send one the day we got back as well as the Monday she left. I was very worried not only about her being the only child not to receive mail, but also about her feeling homesick and wanting a connection to her family back home. I hated to think of her feeling sad or lonely, so on Tuesday I wrote three separate letters, schlepped my two youngest children to the post office (always a dreamy experience, especially if the line is long and there are Disney bubble envelopes hanging low to the floor) and sent all three letters in an express envelope with each letter labeled "Wednesday, Thursday, Friday." There. I had done all that I could. Whatever happened from here on out was out of my control. I could only hope she would be okay.

It was a long week. No cell phones aloud. No emails. The only contact she would have from us would be those letters.
I was glad I had gone to the trouble.

She got home at 12:30pm on Friday night. Both of us exhausted, we didn't talk much that night, but it was nice to have her home safe and sound. She was back under my wing where she belonged. The next day we talked about the trip and I was genuinely surprised at how nonchalant she was about the whole thing. It almost sounded like she wished the trip were longer. When I asked her if she liked the letters, she gave me a sheepish grin and said she "didn't have time" to read them! What! Didn't have time? I was spluttering incoherently in my mind but kept it cool with her and just laughed it off. Never even read them. Had an amazing time. Wished the trip were longer.

I guess she's growing up after all.



  1. That is so classic. Isn't it funny how our children totally surprise us with their maturity and abilities? My nine-year-old can totally put our toddler to bed now--story, teeth-brushing, everything. And he doesn't even cry. What a great experience. You're a nice mom, though. I hope you keep those letters for her somewhere and have her label them, "The Week I Grew Up."

  2. Boy, that turned out way better for Kate than my son's first field trip. Well, it wasn't really a field trip per se, but more like me accidentally leaving him on the subway for a few hours. But once the police finally dropped him back home, I told him that it wasn't a careless mistake but that it was, in fact, his his first "field trip." And he got to ride in a police car to boot! How cool is that? All's well that ends well, I always say. Unless, of course, you think a four year-old with a "Latin Kings" tattoo on his shoulder does not equal ending well.

  3. Love this! But after the life lesson gleaned from the whole shoe saga, I was waiting for a similar ending comparing letters to scriptures or something. I think this experience is as telling about Kate as it is about her parents... Thanks for sharing!


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