I had always considered myself a good letter writer—witty, interesting, and erudite. That is, until my daughter came home for a visit at Thanksgiving and cleaned her room. No, wait. “Cleaned” may be the wrong word. This event occurred over twelve years after she left for college, so what I meant to say was “excavated.”
She came up with quite a few treasures along with plenty of clothes to recycle, lots of stuff to discard, and, after unearthing a package of letters people had written to her at camp, she began to read them aloud to the rest of the family. To my horror, mine were preachy, boring, and lacked any information likely to be of interest to my child.
In defense of my preachiness, let me just say that one of the major themes was writing thank you notes, which needed to be done while my daughter was at camp. Her birthday is early July, so we always had her parties in late June, leaving no time for her to write the notes before boarding the camp bus. Since I could not see whether they had been written or not, I just went with reminders. News of my day, which at the time was nothing if not boring, filled the rest of the pages.
And to think, I wanted to be a writer! I couldn't even entertain my daughter!
Meanwhile, and this is really weird, my husband, who as a lawyer normally sucks the life out of any sentence, particularly when editing my books, wrote funny, lively, charming letters to camp. He even included thought-provoking articles. They were a devastating contrast to mine. And in the one instance where he got preachy, my daughter, during the rereading on Thanksgiving weekend, noticed that he had written it from home rather than work, and I was blamed for being a bad influence.
So what accounts for the inferior quality of my missives? When I wrote to other people I was, or at least I think I was, funny and interesting. Was I saving the good stuff for my friends? Was I incapable of being on the same wavelength as a pre-teen/teenager? Was I just a boring person because I was basically at home too much?
Luckily for my ego, some of what I’d written to our daughter was funny and we were all laughing, but that mostly came from stories about the Seeing Eye puppy she was raising whom she had left behind for her parents to care for while she was at camp. I mentioned in the letters things that had been accidentally chewed, cute incidents, and how things were going when I filled in for her at puppy class. I’d been criticized for being less than firm while working the puppy, something I had never done before. “It’s not ‘Sit, sweetie,’ I was told by the club leader. Our daughter knew that, but I might not have been listening when she explained my role as a substitute puppy raiser.
I had also written about the kitchen renovations. Who knew that a discussion of floor tile wouldn't be interesting to a 14-year-old?
And how was I to know she was adept at doing all the things I told her to do without being reminded?
I’m glad she brought it to my attention, as embarrassed as I felt. I like to think I’ve learned my lesson and I won’t do it again. Of course that’s kind of an easy promise since I’ve learned what a capable woman she is. The best part is, she likes the fiction I write.