Two of my grandchildren left for summer camp at the end of June. One will be away for five weeks, the other for seven. Last year, I began what is now a tradition. I write them every day.
It’s the week of July 4, and I have missed only a couple of days. If you count up all the days they are in camp (take away four at the end of their time at camp) you get a total of 76 letters this summer. Missing a few isn’t the end of the world, I tell myself.
In the spirit of ’76, I’ll tell you why I attempt this crazy thing. You should know that I’ll be lucky to receive a two-sentence note from each of them over the course of the summer. It doesn’t matter.
What prompts this behavior? When I was in summer camp over 65 years ago, mail call made me tense. At that time, parents could send packages of goodies, and so campers who got a box were happy. Kids who got letters were pleased. And those of us whose names weren’t called got an extra dose of loneliness. I don’t want those grandkids to experience such a moment. So I write letters.
How do I pull a letter together in a patch where nothing much is happening in my life? I write about my day. I write about the dog. I write about the weather. I type a short note, print it out, and decorate it with xxx’x and xox’x and hearts. Believe me, these are not literary masterpieces. Sometimes I can’t help myself and the notes are silly. Last year the older one showed my letters to his bunkmates. I couldn’t tell if he were bragging or showing them my infernal silliness. So this year I asked him, now that’s turning 14, if he still wanted me to write a letter a day. “Yes, Grandma,” he said. And I knew he meant it.
I tell myself that I do it for them. But of course I do it for myself. This is my opportunity on these long summer days and nights to remind us both that we are always in each other’s world, even if we are hundreds of miles away. I’m approaching my 79th birthday, and so I feel the need to make sure that they feel my presence, even at such a distance. I want them to know that I’ll be thinking of them always.