I have a collection of letters in a box, dating back many years ago when I was a bored child who had just arrived in London, separated from the world by a huge wall of being a foreigner who didn’t yet speak any English and therefore couldn’t play with the neighbours English kids. Separated from the world because my parents didn’t yet know this new country at all and didn’t know where they could take us to be entertained. Without any relatives or any family friends I was left alone for hours in front of a TV that I couldn’t comprehend. It luckily happened to coincide with the time that my cousin went to army in Turkey leaving his family and friends behind. He was alone in the army surrounded by strangers whom he must spend an entire 18 months with and sorely missing his life back home. I was also alone right here in London without friends and also missing my friends back home, my garden and my teachers whom I didn’t get to say goodbye to. Missing the language I spoke so well and so articulately. So began a pleasant pen pal communication between two cousins lost in two different worlds. We wrote to each other almost every day. Being the younger of two children my sister who is 5 years older didn’t find my childish ways at the age of 10 amusing enough to want to spend every hour with me, that left hours and hours of empty hours in a day to be filled in the summer before I started school. I wrote long, detailed letters and even decorated the edges. We kept each other happy, amused, and entertained during the time when we both needed courage and companionship.
My cousin finished his army service and went back home, a changed man who had seen more than any one should have to witness. By the time his service was served and he went back home I had grown up, learnt English. Got new baby brother to play with and lacked the time or even the need to continue writing to him. Our communication ceased and with that I left being Turkish behind me and settled into being British with a Turkish background.
During the most crucial times of my life it was writing that helped me through it. Writing it all helped me get perspective on my feelings, helped me figure out what I needed to do and which decisions to make about my life.
Once again when I found myself in a strange country once again without any acquaintances or known friends the greatest motivation to get back out there and make friends came in the post. The post man walked up to my door, I saw him come up and didn’t think much of it since there were numerous letters that were for the previous tenants.
The letters plumped on the floor and I went to gather up the scattered mess. Seeing my name scrawled out on the front of one letter I grabbed it to read what it was that someone had sent me all the way out here. It was a hand written letter from a best friend back home in London. It started off by telling me that at her age it wasn’t since she was 8 years old that she had hand written a letter to anyone. She told me about how much she missed me and how much she was looking forward to my visit at Christmas. It was exactly what I needed that day to motivate me to leave my house and walk around in the streets of this other strange city and to text my colleague to accept their dinner invitation for that evening. It reminded me that I was never alone and never far from the hearts of those who loved me. I am not sure that a text or an email could have had the same effect.
When I want to tell someone something meaningful I write them a card or a letter. This is why I refuse to accept the facebook invitations from ‘friends’ who want to add me to some automated birthday calendar so that on the day of my birthday they don’t have to have the trouble of turning on their pc to email me happy birthday or even to pick up their phone to call or text me it. This is exactly why on special days you should grab a card and write some meaningful words on it rather than filling it with your name. After all you never know what emotions your words could inspire in someone you love at a crucial time. We human beings are sentimental beings, some hand written words; old letters, cards are precious and help you re live old memories. You can’t keep a text or email for 15 years.