An inquiring mind asked recently about the process behind my first few weeks of letters to Ellen once she bolted to college. Specifically, what drove you to this end?
There was not a lot to it. Literally, I swiveled my office chair to face my PC and fired up MS Word and wrote the letter. Maybe it was pent up emotion or some other unknown driver, but the first few letters came out pretty easily. In all honesty, I’m just not certain what the tipping point was that pushed me over the edge.
This is a post I thought about posting closer to July when pre-college pack-a-thons are in full swing. But someone was nice enough to ask so I’ll answer. I’ll no doubt revisit this topic.
I can see clearly now how parents of soon-to-be-college students might scratch their heads about the whys and hows of writing to their kids. The miracle of hind sight has afforded me some school-of-hard-knocks experience. If it were me, and I had to do it all over again (which I would), here are the five key points to make letters a relative breeze for parents:
1) Set aside any doubts about your writing. You don’t need to be an accomplished writer. Tone and emotion will win the day for you.
2) Don’t worry about embarrasment. You’ve already embarrased yourself in front of your kid(s) in more ways that you can count. The written page is a completely different genre. Don’t worry about it.
3) You have plenty to say. More things happen to you in a single day than you can ever write about. Keep a sticky note in your office, in the kitchen or by your nightstand or use some other means to jot down or track ideas worth a mention. My suggestion: short paragraphs about multiple topics.
4) Be assured that kids want contact. To this day, if a letter does not arrive in Ellen or Reid’s mailbox, I hear about it at some point. College is more than a lonely time. It is when they begin to contrast their ordered upbringing vs. the brave new world they have encountered. Just because their are off to school doesn’t mean they have turned a deaf ear to doings at home.
5) Commit to the process. Letters can be a one-off experience but I’d encourage you to take a long term view. Put another way, you already call and text and email. Insert letters into that mix. You will find you like the process, and your college student will appreciate the news from home.
End of lecture. Class dismissed.
It’s Monday, and here is last week’s letter to Ellen and Reid.
May 3, 2010
Ellen/Reid: Nature seemed to rear its head this weekend in a few different ways. Walked the golf course yesterday with a couple of guys from work, and there were a lot of ponds and overgrown areas along the course. Saw a couple of copperheads, the first I’ve seen in courses around Charlotte. One was only about a foot or so long, the other was about three feet. They were on the banks of a watering hole, probably to ambush the frogs which are out in abundance right now. They say the little ones are more dangerous because their venom is more concentrated than in the larger snakes. As I skirted a pond looking for a wayward golf ball, my shadow startled the little fish that clung to the shore; when they ventured deeper, the big fish lurking under the moss darted in to get their share of the bounty. It was like that on pretty much all the water holes. Kind of neat to see. On the walk from my car to the office I have to go under some trees planted along the street, and there must have been some large gust of wind over the weekend because the sidewalk was strewn with lots of little birds blown from their nests. Probably four or five. Nature’s way, I guess. The tomato plant continues to get bigger and it is setting fruit. It’s only May.
Rode the Blue Ridge Parkway with Felicia on Saturday. We stopped for coffee in a quaint little tourist spot called Blowing Rock which is the gateway to the Parkway. Then it was on to Asheville which is about a 100 mile route along the southern exposure of the Parkway. It’s quite the route. Not very busy and while the ‘mountains’ aren’t the Rockies, it’s still very nice with really cool overlooks. It was a hard ride because with the curves and such you really have to be on your toes. The hills are overgrown with rhododendrons and other conifers. It was a cold ride and wish I’d had more than the Harley vest to keep me warm. There was the threat of rain but nothing materialized. Grabbed a beer at a funky little joint in Asheville named Salsas. It’s the second time I’ve been there and the food is incredible. Best I’ve ever had in a Mexican cantina. Asheville is a great spot; pretty laid back community of hippies which gives it a certain pizzazz.
Had my own wardrobe malfunction last week, and of all days to have it occur, it was during the bank’s annual meeting. I thought I would wear gray slacks and a blue blazer, only the gray pants turned out to be a blue tone which clashed with the blazer. Didn’t realize this until I got out of the car in the parking lot. Maybe the light in my closet needs to be stronger or else I need to start printing the color of the garment on hangers. The lights in the meeting were low enough so I got by with the mistake. At least no one mentioned it.
My writing course is solidified at the local community college, Central Piedmont Community College. It will be for eight nights. The students will be tortured for two hours each time, and for the life of me I am drawing an utter blank about what to say. Most of the enrollees will be adults just looking for something to do. Ostensibly, the course is on blogging but that’s merely code for pleasure writing. There are no grades or anything like that although the students do grade the instructor. FYI…this Friday will be my 50th post since the end of January. Not a ton of Web traffic, but enough to placate me.
My 10“x10” plot of lettuce is providing all the greenery I can handle. The square foot gardening method really works in that situation. If all the seeds had taken hold, I could’ve fed the entire block with romaine. The basil and parsley are really exploding onto the culinary scene. Both are now large enough to clip with impunity. The flowers along the railings are ready to blossom sometime this week. They live on in spite of my attempts to neglect their well being.