Letters to Myself: Blog 04/17/18
I’ve taken to writing letters to myself, as a kind of extension of journaling. But if writing a daily journal is pretty old-fashioned these social media-beset days, how about writing actual letters rather than ripping off an email? The only people I know who write longhand letters are my sister Mary and my friend Patch Adams. Patch swears he’s never opened a computer and writes about 500 letters every month.
Now I’ve finished my memoir and it’s been copy-edited at the publishers, it’s way beyond the time I could add, remove, or edit anything. So of course past incidents, often long past, and things I’d like to have mused about on paper keep popping into my head, and I have nowhere to put them. So I thought I’d try my hand at letter writing.
Then I moved on to the idea of writing to myself, which is just a dressed-up way of journaling – but with the important catch that letters expect to be answered. Which is what happened when I wrote to my mother who had been dead for fifty-plus years at the time. I got an answer by return of post, you might say. But that’s a tale for another time, and anyway it’s in my memoir.
Anyway, from there it was a hop-skip-jump to exchanging letters between my present-day self and my boyhood self. And just to stir things up I decided my first letter would come from me as a boy (aged six) to me now (aged seventy-six). I remember Mummy being from a very early age (mine, I mean) very big on thank-you letters after Christmas and birthdays, and a few other times too – a chore that was worse than piano lessons, it seemed then.
Why did I choose six as my starting point? Well, Google tells me most of us have about 20,000 “receptive” words and 4,000 “expressive” ones by then, which may have something to do with it. So here’s my first letter, which I found on the floor by my desk this morning. I counted about 130 different words in it before I lost count near the end, and that’s without the proper names.
47 Bristol Road,
Saturday, February 28, 1948
I am writing to you because Mummy said I might like to write to a grown-up. A grown-up man she means. I could write to her friend Buster, but I don’t think he would read it. He only ever reads The Sun and The News of the World, and then only the sports pages and the pictures of the ladies inside. Anyway he’s fast asleep on the mattress upstairs by my bedroom window snoring. (It makes his moustache twitch every time he breathes out). I didn’t hear him come to bed last night. He and Mummy go to somewhere called the Hole in the Wall on Friday nights. I don’t know what wall that is, or what they do there. And I never know what time they get home, I’m always asleep. I just hear him snoring when I wake up. Mary and I always wake up early, not like Elizabeth and Jane. Mummy always has to wake them up for breakfast or they’ll be late for school. Sometimes she makes me wake them because she’s cooking the breakfast. I hate doing it because they’re always grumpy with me, but it’s not my fault they’re lazybones.
We just moved to our new home from St Martins, the first house we lived in in Weston-super-Mare. It was a very long walk to get here, but I helped Mummy by carrying a huge tower of books. I can build a tower of 17 bricks without them falling over, and I didn’t drop any of her books either. Mummy has hundreds. She always has her nose in one, and she has read all of them at least twice.
I just had my birthday, so now I’m six. I got a train set from Mummy and grandma. It has two trains and a track that runs in a sort of circle. I make the trains run with a special machine that I have to click on and off. I’ve set it up in my bedroom, and some of the track goes right under my bed. My sisters gave me a football. My friend Traps (Michael Trapnell) and me took Spike to the beach and he chased the ball all over the place, so it was hard to play a game of football but it was fun.
[Mummy says I should use that name so you will know who wrote this letter]