Yesterday evening, I wrote a letter to my son. Not so unusual except that he turned 13 (Grade 7) last week and lives with us. But as part of his language arts/personal planning curriculum, his teacher has the class keep a "letter log". Once a month, students write a letter to their parents about whatever's on their mind -- school, goals, hopes, etc. The teacher reads each letter, not to judge or comment, but to ensure the assignment's being completed. So, after my son's letter-of-the-month is finished, he gives me his duotang and I write (or in my case print because my handwriting's lousy) a response on the following page. The only guideline the teacher has is that we not be critical of whatever our children write. The idea is to support and encourage an exchange of ideas and thoughts.
The experience has been a real eye-opener because, although my son and I talk everyday, we don't necessarily talk about the things that come up in the letters. Like personal goals, for instance. At first, a small part of me resented being given homework from a teacher significantly younger than me, but I've come to appreciate and enjoy the experience. Often, I wind up sharing an incident about my school life in the "old" days. Through it, my son receives a bit of a history lesson about how things were for me when I was his age. Meanwhile, I gather interesting insights as to how things are with him.
As I wrote last night's letter, it dawned on me how important writing is, regardless of the form it takes. Committing ideas, hopes, dreams, fears, and memories to paper keeps us connected as family, friends, human beings.
Thirty years ago, I spent a year travelling alone in Europe for a year. I wrote in journals, I wrote letters home, and I began writing my first short stories. Family members gave me those letters as keepsakes. I still have the journals, the stories, and I'll always have my son's letter logs. When I grow old and I'm sitting in my rocking chair, unable to do much else, I'll read them all, and I'll stay connected to my loved ones, and cherished memories, and the power of the written word.