When I was little, my mother sent and received letters (yes, those ones you hand write on paper) with an old friend of hers who lived in Alaska. All I really knew about their friendship is that it was from before my mom met my dad, and that M had taken an unconventional path in life. She never married, moved to Alaska while still young … yes, alone … while my mother stayed in California, eventually meeting and marrying my dad.
They exchanged letters for years. While the letters from M are likely long gone due to things getting cleared out of the house by someone else, I remembered this woman from Alaska. One of the few people who likely knew my mother better than anyone.
Shortly before Christmas, my cousin asked me about what year my dad and my aunt were born. I told her my dad’s, but couldn’t remember my aunt’s birth year. This brought me to tearing through my apartment looking for any papers I might have indicating my aunt’s birth year. What I did find were the two old address/phone books that were a mainstay in the house growing up. One was originally my mothers’ … I can tell because it had an entry for her workplace in Santa Barbara with the old exchange phone number. The second was one my mother made that was in a well-worn report folder. She’d made an entry page and then photocopied it over and over so we had plenty of pages.
It was on one of those pages that I found M. I remembered her first name, but never her last. The address was last “verified” in 1991, so I didn’t count on it. I did some digging and found a more current address from earlier this year. I copied it down into word file, just in case. I agonized here and there about whether to contact her. I didn’t know when the last time they wrote to each other, but I was torn between the whole “creepy invasion of privacy” thing and wanting to let her know that her old friend passed away in 2013.
I finally chose to write to her. I pulled out one of my blank cards and caught her up on everything. I apologized for tracking her info, but felt it was worth making contact. I put it in the outgoing mail slot in my building the day before Christmas. It would’ve been picked up Monday or Tuesday after Christmas. Now, I wait.
But here’s the amusing thing. I see the relationship between M and my mother as being similar to me and my own best friend. My mother stayed put, married, had kids, etc… while M went off, never married or had kids, taking on a solo adventurous life.
N (my best friend) and I are kind of the same. She has moved around, but she’s married (3rd, long story), has 4 kids, and what many people think of as a normal life… while I’m more like M and doing the education and no marriage thing. I’m doing the solo adventurous thing.
My hope is that M is still alive and kicking. From what little my mother told me about her, she was high-spirited and strong-willed. Going out there and tackling life on her own terms. I don’t think she’d leave this world quietly.
The wait is tormenting me. But this is a lesson for me. A lesson in patience.
Well, my lap is being demanded by an orange feline…. no more for now. Maybe some poetry later.