Items that the teenage me classified as absolute essentials — books, CDs and movies — are still in my old bedroom alongside tons of clothes and collectibles. Yet one of the first things I made room for in my new closet was a bag full of cards and letters that I open once in a blue moon.
They’re addressed to me, have stickers where stamps are supposed to go and were all sealed with a kiss from my grandmother.
I’m sure that somewhere in Nanny and Pap-paw’s house is the collection of letters I sent back to her from the time I was in about the third or fourth grade to some point in junior high.
My pen pal lived just up the street, so I’m not sure how I managed to fill several pages with information about my life when I saw her all the time.
If I remember correctly, this tradition started when I said or did something that hurt Nanny’s feelings. I wrote down my apology, too young to understand why I was more comfortable expressing complex emotions on paper than in person.
In later letters, I let my imagination run wild.
I invented a candy factory that we co-owned and then quickly expanded it into a corporation. I even went so far as to draw blueprints of our headquarters.
Nanny encouraged my entrepreneurial spirit by buying me a black leather business bag for carrying around our company’s paperwork. That bag has stored my notebooks, tape recorder, camera and other reporting tools since my first day at the Daily Mountain Eagle.
Ironically, we eventually started calling our letters “The Angel Gazette.” Neither of us had any idea that I would grow up to work at a real newspaper.
Although Pap-paw frequently sent funny little messages to me through Nanny’s letters, he only wrote to me himself twice in all those years.
I know it’s not that he didn’t want to or wouldn’t make the time. He just isn’t as comfortable with writing as I am.
Pap-paw grew up in a time and place when getting an education was a luxury. That’s unfortunate because there is no telling where his mind would have taken him if he hadn’t had to leave school early as a child to support his family.
Still, he didn’t do too badly for himself; he retired as superintendent of the local water plant.
I found one of Pap-paw’s letters when I pulled the bag down from the closet the other day. It was as simple and heartfelt as the man himself.
He apologizes for not writing more often, sends his love and says he would like to see me, my brother and parents come back to church soon. He signed it “Your good looking Pa-Pa with plenty of hair.” (Our family has always kidded him about a bald spot on the top of his head.)
I took more than a bag of letters with me when I moved out and started finding my own way in the world. I also carried the values that my grandparents taught my brother and me and showed us how to live daily.
Although I haven’t done as good of a job following in their footsteps as I would like, I do refer to the examples they set often when I feel like I’m losing my way.
Now Wyatt is receiving the same unconditional love and firm foundation from my grandparents that they have given me for the past 26 years.
Happy 50th anniversary to the cutest couple I know.