Published in SLO Village Newsletter
By Amy Iscold, Volunteer
I wish I knew you when I was young…
I love old letters… old journals… old forgotten scraps of paper tucked into books… It’s insight into other minds and thoughts and lives.
This week was a little different, though. The old letters were my own.
Before the internet, when long distance phone calls were so expensive as to require scheduling and budgeting, writing letters was just the normal thing to do when you were far from loved ones.
My mom sent me pictures of bits and pieces of some letters she unearthed.
The letters are almost a journal. Almost a book. There’s a mountain of them. I was away – altogether – for almost a year… and I’ve always been verbose. They tell a story of homesickness, of search for identity – cultural and personal, of finding a place in the world, of inter and intrapersonal dynamics, and of narrative and framing. How I chose to word heartache and joy showed a pattern that I am not sure I knew was that well established at that age.
It was fascinating. In a wonderful-and-terrible-all-at-once way that only those who’ve somehow looked their former selves in the eye can know.
I felt neither pity nor embarrassment for my younger self. What I felt was too unchanged from that self and, somehow exposed. Unveiled. Bare.
I called my mom and asked her to bring the letters when she next comes to visit. I haven’t read them in 25 years. I don’t think I’ve ever read them at all. I just wrote them. Folded them. Mailed them… and yearned for responses.
While I read the snippets my mom had sent (no longer through snail mail, but in an instant whatsapp exchange), a Revivalist song my husband introduced me to was playing in the background. “I wish I knew you when I was young…” I laughed the first time I heard it. He did know me when I was young. In fact, we met at about the same time those letters were written. I was 14-ish. The radio (I was in a coffee shop) seemed to play into the memory lane mood.
I’ve been known to say that I think I am – we are – all the selves we have been. I love getting to know people and learning about their past selves and understanding their journey into becoming who they are.
I’m looking forward to “meeting” my 14 year old self again. I think she might have something to teach me. Or maybe remind me. I may have forgotten. As we do.