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The Letter

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I remember writing lots of letters as a teenager growing up in Methuen, Mass. I had a long- distance romance with a heartthrob from Maryland, and the mailbox and I became conditional friends. When there was a letter, the mailbox got closed very gently and painstakingly; when there was no letter, it got shut with a vengeance. Do you remember putting up the red flag on the box when you wanted the postman (they were all men back then) to take your letter, your exquisitely transparent articulation of young, perfect, clueless love? All of that comes to mind when I think of how much letters meant to me- writing them and receiving them.

The written word is indeed on my mind. I recently came across a letter written to me by my mother while I was 500 miles away at college. Considering the fact that was oh-so-long ago, the letter was in pretty good shape. It wasn’t written on fancy stationery or a pretty note card; rather, it was on white-lined notepad paper, the standard way we wrote notes to each other in our family.

What’s remarkable about this letter is that it touched me, viscerally, in many ways. The last years of my mother’s life were not easy or pleasant. She lost the ability to do the things she loved, like reading, working on home projects, doing crossword puzzles and simply interacting. She became more self-focused and demanding, and passed those demands on to others. I remember countless appointments with eye doctors and ear doctors and her insistence that they weren’t doing enough for her. Some doctors were patient, some were not and I recall that although my own patience would wane, I would be fiercely protective of her, the lioness guarding her cub, an ironic role reversal.

Unfortunately, those were the top-of-mind memories I had when she died. It took The Letter to remind me about her core and to remind me how writing a letter can have everlasting impact.

My mother was an introverted, crowd-averse woman who let my father shine and have the floor, which he so willingly and effortlessly did. I forgot about her command of language and her insightful, tender acknowledgement of where I was in my life. I also forgot about what a fantastic listener she was. My friends used to remind me of that, but it was a distant memory.

The Letter starts off with a sentence that reads, “ I thought I would try writing to you the way you do your writing- sitting on the bed (sitting-laying) with a book under the pad, and as I look at the writing, it stinks! How do you do it? Practice?”  I was touched that she observed such a seemingly small detail about my writing regime.

I had forgotten how homesick I was in my first semester and how hard on myself I could be. (Let’s face it- the latter is still true.) How soothing these words must have been and still are- “You have a good head and a good mind and are a dear and wonderful girl…Make life as direct and easy as you can by assimilating the knowledge and experiences you have, and above all, laugh and enjoy yourself. Remember, from you we expect only your best effort. You have nothing to prove, no mark to make, for us. I wonder if you realize how often it is you who sets the goal?”

Forty years later, the message is even more powerful and meaningful; is that not the truth of pure art- and pure heart? I walked into my supervisor’s office the other day and she was writing a note card to an employee who had done a particularly nice job during the week. I then noticed the card prominently displayed in his office that same day. I was filled with appreciation as to how important that would be to him as he continues to learn his job. Who knows, he may find that card in a box of letters twenty years from now, and he will remember.

Here is my hope for all of us: that we write something to someone(s) that they will want to save forever and read over and again. Chances are they will find it again at just the right time in their life, when they most need it. Chances are they will cherish it.

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Mary Dolan
Maine State Credit Union
Sales & Service Development Coordinator

Mary Dolan is the Sales and Service Development Coordinator at Maine State Credit Union in Augusta. Mary has spent the majority or career in all things Learning. She was a high school English teacher, manager of learning at LLBean and an organizational development consultant at Crescendo Consulting Group in Portland. Mary is passionate about learning transfer by day and dreaming by night! She graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park, with a BA in English and earned her teaching certification at Salem State College in Massachusetts. Mary graduated from the Facilitators Leadership series at Priority Learning.



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Well done and so heart-felt, MD...LT


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