On Sunday I read a letter I wrote to myself on June 8, 1999. I was in Roger’s class at Peninsula School and we were asked to write a letter to our future selves. (Roger’s is fourth grade, for those who didn’t go to Peninsula.) I, for reasons which are no longer clear to me, wrote large sections of it in rhyming couplets (“I can’t wait till I am 12 so I can scubadive [sic] / and I hope I [sic] the next day I will come out alive.” [overall my spelling is sic, sic, sic]. Peninsula emailed me to ask where to send the letter earlier this summer, and after giving them my Seattle address I had been waiting excitedly to read it.
We were supposed to forget about this letter after we wrote it so it would be a surprise, but I never did for more than a few months. I remember one kid in my class sent himself $20 because he figured it would mean as much to him at 21 as it did at 11. Reading my letter, I found I wrote about my family, about Chamber of Secrets coming out in America. I, with spelling so phonetic it screams “I have an undiagnosed learning disability!”, wrote that when I grew up I expected to be:
“a potter or a juler or a limner or a kaver or a painer or a Doctore or a loier.”
[Trans: A potter or a jeweler or a limner* or a carver or a painter or a doctor or a lawyer”]
Frankly, I think “loier” is still the most logical spelling of that word, since it doesn’t hide the sneaking triple diphthong which makes up the name of that profession. I also wrote:
“Lynda Thuy is 1 year and 1 month and 2 days.”
Lynda is one of my cousins, and my only girl-cousin on my Mother’s side. I love her, and I love Daniel her brother, and I can see that love in the intensely focused way my 10-year-old hand counted her age. (The accuracy I display here is evidenced no where else in that letter except when describing my won age: “10 years and a 1/2 and 8 days.”)
I love everyone in my family, so this post is not about playing favorites. But I feel a truly unreasonable amount of love for my cousins, who I only get to see for a few days a year. I just think they are so cool. They are funny and sassy and put up with me hugging them in a way no one who I’m not married to really should. They have friends who they’ve made themselves and who I hazed when they first met to make sure they reached the standards of my awesome cousins. In Roger’s class, I didn’t have friends at school and while some non-family people may have been as irrevocably on my side as I am on my cousins’, I didn’t think to write that that day.
One of the enduring weirdnesses of undergrad was how narrow the range of ages I interacted with was. Most of my friends were born within 5 years of my own birthday, with the odd exception of a professor or staff member friend. In addition to hanging out with my brother, in high school I always had younger church friends or babysitting charges or kids at Karate to look after and/or harass. At Peninsula, we were expected to take care of the little kids: part of our daily chores were cleaning up their classrooms, and part of the ethos of Peninsula is helping other kids learn the loom or the pottery wheel or to wrangle the great screaming band-saw. When I hit high school, the idea I should care differently for people depending on class was as alienating as Harker’s dress code and their spindly, unclimbable trees.
Now I have the chance to build up an age-blind group of friends again, I can’t wait to see and listen to someone coming up the developmental ranks, particularly when I love them to bits and have known them since forever. I get to see Lynda and Daniel this weekend at the Lair of the Bear family camp, and I honestly can’t wait.
*a word for “teacher.” “Limner1” has been my grandmother’s license plate for as long as I remember. I liked to show off at 10 as much as I do now.
“Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.”–Eric Fromm