When was the last time you received a love letter? Do you remember the thrill of finding a letter in the mailbox from a special someone, addressed to you? I do. How wonderful it was to know I was in someone’s thoughts.
Mark Twain said: “The frankest and freest and ‘privatest’ product of the human mind and heart is a love letter.”
Why am I on a love letter kick? I’m glad you asked.
It must be because of a heartwarming story online about a couple reunited after six decades of living separate lives. Many of you may have read it. Bear with me while I briefly dwell on that incredible romance.
The sweet love story starts in San Diego. She is 18 and he is 27. They work together in a marine laboratory. To while the time away, they write innocent little notes to one another in code on paper towels.
Life takes them on different paths. Both marry other people, have children, and go through the joys and sorrows of births, deaths and divorces in their own families.
Out of the blue
Fast forward to 60 years later, and clear out of the blue, she receives a message, written in code, saying: “I have never stopped loving you.” It is unsigned. But she knows.
For a year more letters follow. It’s catch-up time for the two. Their stories have strange coincidences. Hearts are stirred. Finally they agree to meet.
And this is the part I love. He meets her on the platform of a train station and hands her a single, long-stemmed rose. Can you hear the violins? I can.
He takes her home to his house and they sit on a backyard swing. Howard holds Cynthia’s hand. They talk. He has kept every paper towel note they wrote. An hour later, he proposes. “Love is a great place to spend the rest of your life,” he tells her. She agrees. And so should we all!
Last month, a grand wedding was held in Martha’s Vineyard. The bride was 81 and the groom 90. They know their time is limited. But, like they say, love defies time.
The story is perfect material for romantics like myself who may have quit on loving but never on love.
Once upon a time, people actually wrote letters, love and otherwise. Sentimental lovers even sealed their letters with a kiss. Others marked the flap with Xs and Os for love and kisses, making sure the seal was not broken by anyone else except the object of their affection.
It was, indeed, “a moment,” waiting for the mail, finding a letter, and reading it again and again.
Remember the beautiful Victor Young song “Love Letters”? Jennifer Jones starred in the movie. “I memorize every line. I kiss the name that you sign. And darling then, I read again right from the start, love letters straight from your heart.” Sigh!
And then came e-mail. Can love travel the Internet? Perhaps it can. But the suspense, the “high” you get when you catch a whiff of her (or his) fragrance, just seeing that familiar handwriting on the envelope, is surreal. The thrill is akin to listening to someone whisper sweet nothings in your ear.
Alas, thanks to the new technology, that feeling is now gone. No matter how sweet and mushy the e-mail may be, you can’t keep it under your pillow.
Incidentally, having succumbed to this keyboard/monitor relationship has caused my penmanship to deteriorate. Okay, I will admit to some age-related unsteadiness. But really!
Loops and peaks
Handwriting was a big thing in my day. In kindergarten and even into the higher grades, the teachers gave us special writing pads just to practice our cursive loops and peaks. I remember that girls from Assumption had a unique style, elaborate capital letters and graceful but halting strokes. The nuns at Holy Ghost taught us a more flowing script, similar to the La Salle Palmer style. You could tell the school from the penmanship of its students.
But the war changed all that. During the battle for Manila, most of the schools in Ermita and Malate were destroyed. When the fighting was over, and life resumed some measure of normalcy, there was a rush of students enrolling in schools north of the Pasig. Because of the sudden mix, handwriting styles became a free for all.
I have great memories of that time. Holy Ghost was temporarily taken over by US liberation forces and converted into a hospital. Classes had to relocate. We started having morning and afternoon sessions.
Army tents were set up on the sprawling grounds of the old Cardenas and Paterno houses on Aviles. Then there was the Ubaldo property at the edge of the Pasig, at the time still clean and beautiful.
That was fun. Reeling from the war and the ravages of liberation, we couldn’t wait to reunite with old friends. I remember our classroom had a view of the river. I did a lot of daydreaming there. There was a distinct aroma from the river, but it was never foul.
One little memory: I will never forget one morning when I arrived in school, someone handed me an envelope. It was my first love letter from a cute boy with freckles from San Beda. It was also my first marriage proposal.
I was just into my teens then. I was horrified. Excited. I think I was embarrassed. I didn’t tell anyone. But I kept the letter in my wallet for some time. Then one day, I saw him walking another mestiza home and carrying her books. Was that perhaps a portent of the story of my life?
I smile as I write that. Truly what a ride this has been.
As Knut Hamsun said: “In old age, we are like a batch of letters that someone has sent. We are no longer in the passing. We have arrived.”