By Allyn Schuyler
Opening mail for my husband at our business the other day, I unfolded a small piece of paper from a customer with their check.
“You were worth every penny — refreshing,” our client wrote. “Thanks.”
I smiled and tacked the Post-it to the bulletin board after I took a photo and texted it to my husband. I knew that little note would make his day.
As a writer, I deal with words on a daily basis. I’m always reading or writing something. Words are important to me and I struggle to choose just the right ones. I like to stumble across interesting new ones. My favorite literary writers keep me busy looking up the definitions of obscure ones.
I cannot bear to skim over a word I’m not sure about. I constantly apologize to my Hebrew teacher for being on my phone, but by now she knows it’s because I look up definitions to make sure I understand the meaning of the text. I love the sound of those that roll off the tongue — somnambulism, halcyon and pastiche are some of my recent favorites.
A while ago, I decided to give my three little sisters a gift of words on their birthdays. When their special day approached, I took a few nights to remember our lives together. I reached as far back as I could to recall memories from every stage — early childhood when my parents tried again and again for a boy and kept getting girls. Teenage years when we shared bedrooms and clothes.
As I remembered difficult times, I apologized. When I recalled instances I was grateful, I spelled out my appreciation.
The celebratory letters took on a tone of love and respect for the experiences we shared. I cherished each remembrance I gathered and realized from the return emails they were just as precious to receive.
Those notes gave me an opportunity to apologize when necessary, like the time when I lost my temper and behaved despicably -— something hard to even think about and certainly something I’d never spoken of. And, yet, I needed to bare my soul and ask for forgiveness, which I humbly received. Finally, I was free from many burdens of regret.
Another note gave me a chance to thank my younger sibling who allowed me to crawl into her twin bed during the time I suffered terrible night terrors. No one ever knew that happened because, once again, we never spoke about it and she never outed or embarrassed me. It did my heart good to recognize her for her kindness in my hour of need.
I also had the pleasure of telling them all the things I liked about them. They all know I care, but I got the chance to say things like, “I was so proud of you when …” or “I always admired you for …”
Then came the grown-up memories like when they supported me in times of adult crisis … death of a child, life-threatening illness, etc. Those things we all experience given enough time in this world. Times when their support had been invaluable.
These birthday wishes didn’t cost me much, only a few minutes and quite a few more tears. Every time I sat down to write, the recollections came flooding back and I knew immediately which ones to include. When I finished, I felt like my gift was something very significant — a priceless treasure that might have been lost.
I don’t imagine I will ever send my sisters another note quite like these — I think I exhausted my material. But there’s always my friends who mean so much to me, or my mother. Unfortunately, I never got to give my father his letter. I did compose it after he passed, as a eulogy, but was too emotional to be able to deliver it during his funeral.
I know he would have loved my words and the sentiment they held. What a shame I missed the opportunity.