It was a cherry blossom romance.
And it was unexpected. He was all-American and I was a long way from home. Twenty one and studying social justice in D.C., determined to make my South African story count for something. We became friends first. That’s always the most dangerous route, isn’t it? Laughter will often lead you unerringly and oh so easily into love.
Man did he make me laugh. And oh how I loved him. But I wasn’t ready to marry him yet.
Not until he knew my South Africa. Not until he had felt the Karoo under his feet and seen the place on the far vlaktes of the family sheep farm where my mom was buried. Not until he had tasted the bitter Cape winds in winter or smelled the fires that sweep through the veld in late winter.
Not until he had experienced my home with all his five senses.
Photo credit: Paul Manners
And, truth be told, not until we had grown up a bit. I had a lot of myself still to lose; a lot of him still to learn. So after a summer spent dating we were apart for nearly a full year. Me back to the East coast and college; him to a semester spent studying in Germany, Poland and England.
A year is a long time. A year without email, skype, instant messaging, video chats, and cell phones is even longer. We had to work hard at our friendship; harder at keeping the new spark alive. And we did it the old fashioned way – with ink and paper.
September 28: To Lisa-Jo: hey buddy! I have mountains to climb, oceans to cross, rivers to tame. Stand here with me, take hold of my hand. Don’t worry, I never let go! So let’s be off, life awaits and the future is impatient – it longs to become the present. Jesus is just ahead. All we must do is follow together. You have my hand, right? Good.
September 27: To Peter: Hi Honey: I’m sorry my letters have been so few and far between because I am hesitant to mail to random Polish addresses, doubting they would even get to you. However, when you get to London you will receive a plethora of letters from me! … I am learning patience and I am learning about love, and am loving every minute.
We worked at our love with cramped hands and ink stained finger tips. We sealed up our hopes and dreams and stamped them “Airmail.” And we read each other. Slowly. Deliberately. We discovered the nooks and crannies that are easily overlooked in person. And savored them.
Today we have two boys and a treasure chest of correspondence. One year in the life of their parents serendipitously recorded for their kids to discover. That we were once impetuous too. That we were once fraught with the drama of young love. That we were once consumed by a passion they may not otherwise have believed we could relate to. And that we learned to wait.
Our letters tell our story.
I hold them in my hand. They give our history weight. And our future too.
This post happily shared with the folks over at A Holy Experience who are contemplating love letters today.