In the collective memory of each and every family there are words and phrases that are so commonplace, so absolutely predictable that they become home to family members just as much as the family house or a favorite family recipe. When a person in the family hears these words or phrases they are immediately surrounded by the smells of home, or caught up in their mind’s eye with the remembered expression of a loved one’s face.
My Dad used to use the expression “that’s nothing to write home about” with such regularity that it became one of the phrases that always makes me think of him. I just used it a moment ago when talking to my wife about a recipe we just tried; it wasn’t remarkable. And so I said, “Well, it’s nothing to write home about!” Meaning, of course, that it wasn’t that good, and as a result we probably won’t repeat it.
But strong words and phrases that are in our collective family memory have a way of lingering even after the topic they were describing passes. And I am left today pondering those words . . . as well as the ones that I muttered shortly after using them.
I said, “And there’s no one at home to write to, either.”
Mom and Dad have both passed away. My brother and his family live far away, and let’s admit it . . . “writing” is not what it used to be.
Now, I am quite familiar with email, etc. I know we continue to write as a nation. Incessantly! Texting, tweeting, and status updating; linking in, blogging, etc. We are inundated with words and communication, at least of a sort. But there’s nothing like a good old fashioned letter. As the writer of Proverbs said, “As water to a thirsty soul, so is news from a distant land.”
My mother was a craftsman without parallel when it came to letter writing; she was a master. Mother could describe a trip to the grocery store and make it interesting; she could tell you about planting an Oleander bush or a Texas ranger in the backyard and her description of it would leave you spellbound, longing for a sequel. She was both informative and entertaining. My cousin is the same way; whenever he writes I start to smile even before opening the envelope – I know it’s going to be fun, and clever, and genuine.
But what grips me today is that single phrase from my father: nothing to write home about. And it has me asking, today: “What is there that is worth writing home about?” That is, assuming you have a home to write to, and persons there that you love dearly. Persons you value enough to share your life, your dreams, your successes, your failures.
As I reflect upon my day today there is nothing remarkable to tell. Or is there? My grandson is spending the day with us (he is 21 mos. old), and so we stopped by Dunkin Donuts to buy a cinnamon-raisin bagel (which we share each Tuesday), set up a toy wooden train track together, watched some Sesame Street on TV, ate some Cheerios and Chex with fruit, let the dog in and out a dozen times, talked with the lady from Orkin that came to spray for bugs, went to the grocery, sorted through some papers, washed some clothes, had some casual conversation . . . and I could elaborate even more if you’d like, of course.
What strikes me odd about the list of unremarkable things I’ve listed above is this: these are the very things my mother would write me about, making me long for more of the same. To her, these were things worth “writing home about,” I suppose. And these were the things I valued reading, as well.
Emails today are usually short and to the point. If they aren’t we often tire of them quickly, and resent the sender. I try to make my blogs short, in part because I know that people don’t tend to want to read things that are lengthy. But as a result we have become a society that wants nothing that is not absolutely necessary when we read; our time, we say, is so precious.
And so . . . we forfeit the little things. We don’t describe the planting of our garden. We don’t share the many little stories that make up our days, because they are not sensational enough. We don’t prefer old movies much, because the action is so slow. We won’t take a stroll in the park because it doesn’t provide adequate exercise. I am afraid that often in our lives there is increasingly nothing to write home about.
And so I repeat, “What is worth writing home about?” And I am not necessarily advocating a resurgence in old fashioned letter writing; I know the presence of cutting edge technology is here to stay, and we must adjust to the times in this regard.
I’m really not talking about writing at all; rather, living.
Our lives are remarkable on so many levels. So many levels. Do you see the beauty? Are you aware of the astounding richness that is truly present even in a smile?
I am convinced that if we miss these little things, if we measure the importance of our lives by what is commonly accepted as sensational, we will miss out on the beauty, value, and richness of our own lives. The truth is, we all have something worth writing home about.
So . . . what impresses you? Do you revel in the beauty of a raindrop as it splashes into a growing puddle of rainwater? Can you delight in the smell of wood burning in the winter? Does the sight of Orion or the Pleiades enthrall you on a clear night? And does it thrill you as you watch a toddler talking and traversing a living room that only months ago was like a great desert expanse to him?
And will you write home about it all? Because . . . it is indeed – remarkable.