I hate to pack. I put it off as long as I can. My husband and I plan to drive tomorrow from our home in Las Vegas, to the coast of California, where we hope to help our grandkids polish off their Halloween candy.
Assuming there’s any left.
But instead of packing, I just pulled out a basket of unopened reader mail – several months’ worth – and started reading.
Opening “snail mail” from readers is always a treat, never a chore. But it can be a bit time consuming, so I put it off until I have a few free hours. Or until I want to avoid packing.
Most reader mail arrives in emails on my computer or in posts on my website or Facebook page. I’m nothing if not connected. But I still receive a good bit of handwritten mail.
Readers often write several pages in reply to something they read in my column: A story from childhood; a memory of a loved one; an image of a sunset or my sister trying to shoot me.
For a storyteller, it’s a gift to tell a story and have someone tell you theirs in return.
I write about things I care about: Family and friends, love and loss and other everyday, ordinary matters of the heart.
Readers, in turn, write to me about similar things and what those things mean to them. I count on them to do that and I’m never disappointed. Often they write about loss – the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, the closure of a chapter of their lives – and how they are struggling with grief.
Those letters are hard to read, but they’re an honor to receive.
Sometimes readers send me books they’ve written, memoirs that would be fascinating, no doubt, but unfortunately, I will never have time to read them. Let alone, to endorse them.
One exception is a book I just received: “Barry Baskerville’s Marvelous Memory,” the fifth in a series of mysteries for children, starring a young Sherlock Holmes fan. It was written by Richard Kellogg, a reader/friend in upstate New York. My grandkids will love it.
Also in recent mail was a note from a reader/friend in Ohio, who sent me a photo of his grandson on his 16th birthday, and a copy of a column I wrote about that boy 16 years ago, the day he entered the world. (Happy birthday, Gregory, so glad you were born!)
A reader from Kansas sent me a gorgeous photo of a great blue heron, taken by Tom Dorsey of the Salina Journal. (Oh, my!)
One reader – thankfully, only one – wrote to inform me that I am old and gray and I should go away. (He was partly right. I am old by some standards, clearly by his, but thanks to Julia, my beloved hairdresser, I’m not gray. And someday, yes, I’ll “go away.” But, sorry, not today.)
A church member in Arkansas asked for a copy of a column to reprint in a church bulletin. (Thanks! It’s on it’s way.) And a kind reader in Ohio sent me a key chain inscribed with a Bible verse I’d mentioned. (“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” -- Micah 6:8.)
A Clemson grad from Alabama sent his Clemson alumni sticker for me to give to my brother, who is totally blind, but is a huge fan of Clemson football.
Somehow I misplaced the sticker and went digging in the recycling bin, until my husband found it by the sofa. You’d be amazed what you can find in a recycling bin when looking for a sticker. My brother doesn’t own a car, but he will proudly display that sticker on his walker.
That basket of mail held hundreds of letters from readers around the country, who all said, in effect: We’re different in ways that make us interesting; but in the everyday, ordinary matters of the heart, most of us are very much alike.
I didn’t have time to read them all, but it’s a start. Now I swear I’m going to pack. As soon as I mail that sticker to my brother.
Wait. Where did I put it?
– Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson NV 89077, or on her website: www.sharonrandall.com.