This exchange from Two Gardeners gave me a curious sort of comfort today. May, 1959. They’ve been corresponding occasionally for a year. Katharine writes:
Dear Miss Lawrence,
Can you ever forgive me for having been so rude as not to write you long before now to acknowledge all the helpful things you have done for me and for your good letters and postcards?
She hastens to explain that she had fallen ill and spent a long time recovering from a kidney infection. This apology is followed by several wonderful pages of garden notes and commentary. And finally:
This letter is much too long and I must wind it up fast. Our first calf was born today and another will be along soon…The first bantam chick has cracked its shell and it is suddenly hot, so spring must be here at last. The seventy-five chicks for broilers and laying hens have come out from under the brooder stove. We try to do much too much and our lives are too full. I’m sure yours must be, too, especially when you get letters of this length.
First, please believe that I never even notice when letters are not answered, much as I love the answers when they come. I can’t bear to think that you would ever have answering on your mind. And in turn please don’t fault me if I don’t answer. If I don’t by return mail, I probably never will. I have had to give up writing letters to my close friends. And answer only business letters; and garden ones, for as you know that is the only way to get any real information.
By this point in the correspondence it is clear they are on their way to becoming real friends—Katharine ends her letter with “And I find myself quoting ‘Elizabeth.’ Do I dare call you that? Anyway, I’ll sign myself, Katharine”; and Elizabeth’s reply opens with “Dear Katharine”—and I love seeing how they’re working out the relationship. The warmth and mutual respect, the delight in finding a conversation partner who brings wit, knowledge, and original thought to the discussion of one’s pet subjects. Surely many of us who’ve connected with one another here in blogland can relate…
And there they are, in the late ’50s, when there were only a handful of television channels, for Pete’s sake, and no internet, no social media, struggling to keep up a valued correspondence in the thick of a busy and sometimes bumpy life.
As I said, comforting indeed.
Have I mentioned lately how much I appreciate your comments here? And how I wish I were better at keeping up my end of these many correspondences, both in the comment box and outside it? 🙂
Booknotes: Byatt’s The Children’s Book
What We’re Up to These Days
This Week in Ancient Greece
I SEEM TO BE DOING A LOT OF SHOUTING IN THIS POST
Feast Your Eyes and Ears