Stories of this Canadian girl's adventures exploring Europe...join me!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

my mother's letters

The faded red and black, stationary box found me.  Well, more exactly, I had to go and pick it up.  But, I didn’t eagerly seek it out, and I can’t seem to get rid of it.  The box has stayed with me, like a heavy weight, moving with me across the prairies and finally across the ocean…ironically, back to where it came from.  I have had it for six years now, almost exactly to the week.  My mother’s box of letters.

On one hand I treasure it, as it was my mother’s most valued possession; and yet on the other hand, knowing that I have it means she is gone.  My mother had carried this little box with her across continents and from house to house for over forty years.  Possibly two or three people ever knew it existed while she was alive.  Even my father never realized that this unassuming box went with them through all of their moves, and through their two marriages.  But, she had told me about it.  And, I remember the day I had to pick it up as if it was yesterday.

My mother had been sick for a few months, although my brother and I hadn’t known the extent of her illness or even what kind of illness exactly.  Her husband (and my mother) had kept us in the dark about most things, possibly out of denial.  Or control.  My step-father, although I can barely make myself call him that, was (and most certainly still is) a horribly, controlling man.  A few years after their wedding, my mother had told me that she had moved her little box of letters to her office in downtown.  She was worried that he would go through it, as he had gone through all of her videos, taping over films she had made of herself and her friends and her children.  So, the box sat in the bottom drawer of her filing cabinet, with a handwritten note stuck on to the many layers of tape ensuring that no one opens it, saying “PERSONAL LETTERS”, and in red marker, “GIVE ONLY TO NINA KESEL”.

It was a dark, cold February morning, when I showed up at my mother’s office.  She had been away from work for four months or so already.  I asked one of the court clerks who I knew to see if my mom’s supervisor, Shelly, was available to see me.  As I saw her walking towards me, I could tell that she was trying to read my face.  What news was I bringing about my mom?  My mother had worked in that office for almost twenty years; everybody knew her.

After greeting each other warmly, I told her that I had come to pick up the box.  Shelly’s face dropped.  She said, “So your mom isn’t come back to work is she?”  Shelly was one of the 2 or 3 people in the world who knew about the box, because my mother had explicitly told her years before, do not let anyone except Nina pick up that box.  No one is to touch it!  My mother, the drama queen.  I used to wonder, why does she think everyone just wants to get in her stuff...as if it’s that interesting. 

Honestly, I find it exhausting just writing about this…thinking about this.  I’m doing it as a journaling assignment for one of my writing classes.  It really does feel like a weight that pulls me down.  This box.  But, I’m also thankful for the box.  Having it has made me want to become a writer because I had, and still do, this certainty that there’s a story inside of it.  There has to be a story in these letters that my mother kept with her her entire life. The letters she wrote and received from the first man she loved.

There has to be a story.  I have to make something out of it.  I just have to. At least I have to try.
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