I am feeling somewhat emotionally compromised at present. Being the Vulcan / sociopath that I am, this is rather an unsettling feeling, so I do what any self-respecting denizen of the internet would do and I have decided to blog about it. Of course.
I’m in the process of reorganising my room at the moment (I’m actually vlogging every day so my subscribers can see my room changing around me, though at present it’s just a mess). Because I have to find new homes for things in the drawers of the desk I’m getting rid of, I was clearing a drawer from the small set in my cupboard, and that meant tidying my Letters drawer in order to fit a few more papers in there.
And I found a lot of letters from my grandparents. Enough letters that it seemed best to put them in a separate folder so that I could always find them.
They wrote me a letter to wish me luck for every exam I took.
They wrote me a letter to congratulate me on my results – whatever I got.
They wrote me cards on my birthday – two cards, one from my grandma and one from my grandad.
They wrote me letters when I was ill and letters when I got a part in the school show and letters to wish me luck when I made the transition from primary to secondary school and letters to say thank you for my letters to them.
Grandad wrote me letters about maths and tried to explain complicated concepts and worked out 64 to the power of 64 by hand because his calculator wasn’t good enough and sent me a book about geometry because we were talking about pentominoes.
Grandma wrote me letters about her childhood and what it had been like living in the war and how she’s done dance classes and how the school in which I did an Irish dance competition was built on the site of her school, that was bombed during the war.
They wrote me letters about the ‘book’ I’d been writing at the time. My grandparents never patronised me when they read and critiqued my writing. Of course they were gentle – for goodness’ sake, I was eleven – but they weren’t patronising. In the letter I found today, Grandma gave me a few tips on historical context of the story I was writing, and also wrote this:
The story gets better as it goes along, so sending out the first few chapters wouldn’t give a clear impression of what it was like. I think you should revisit the first few chapters – perhaps pad them out with description, although I wouldn’t know. I’ve never written anything original in my life.
It might not sound like much in the way of advice, but do you know how much that meant to me? To have someone take my writing seriously but not to tell me it was ‘Very nice, dear’? To have someone treat me like I was an dult who had written a book and was considering querying it?
I found a letter Grandma had written me at the end of June in 2010 (my grandfather died on the 2nd of May of that year), which mentioned the proof copy I was claiming from CreateSpace using the voucher I’d got for ‘winning’ NaNoWriMo.
She said to me,
How exciting that you’re publishing a book! Grandad would have been proud of you. Your first and his last, so close together.
I was sitting on the floor filing these letters when I read that and I burst into tears, proper tears.
Because she thought he’d be proud of my writing (even though I know now how bad that book was). Because she talked about the mathematical book he’d had published as ‘his last’ and my pathetic excuse for a novel as my ‘first’, as though I’d go on to write many more (and I did). Because she believed in it – that it was a real book and it was being truly published.
My grandparents never patronised me. They never treated me like a little kid. They advised me on decisions and never ever told me what I should choose.
And they wrote me letters before every exam I took, to wish me luck, and they sent me cards congratulating me on every result I got.
But both of them passed away too soon to see me take my GCSEs, which finished yesterday. I had no ‘good luck’ cards before I took my Physics exam, though it’s a subject I find hard. I’ll have no ‘congratulations’ messages in August when I collect my results, or commiserations if they’re not up to par.
The earliest letter I found was from my grandad, from 2002. He talked about being 78 and how strange it felt. I have another letter, from 2003, and then a ‘thank you’ from Grandad in 2004, for coming to the celebrations for his 80th birthday.
I don’t know if I’ve got anything else in my life that I’ve had since 2002 – ten years ago. I don’t know if I’ve kept anything else that long.
But I have ten years’ worth of letters from my grandparents and enough good luck wishes to put every four-leafed clover in the country out of business.