As a kid, even a teenager, I would often find little semi-legible notes folded into my crumpled brown paper bags at school. The lunch itself was another story, apples wrapped in tin foil (don’t ask), peanut butter sandwiches on whole wheat smooshed bread in tin foil, and sliced celery (or some other utterly untradeable snack) in tin foil. But a note with a smiley face, a good luck wish for a test, or a “have a great day” greeting always added a personal touch to the aluminum clad fare. One classmate was so enamored by both the notes and the foil that he took to writing a mini responsa with my mother via brown paper lunch bags.
The notes, it seems, are something of a family tradition. My grandparents were prolific note writers to their children, grandchildren, one another and even the store owners, mailmen and dog sitters of the neighborhood. These short notes were one of the ways they made their appreciation and love known to those around them. Recently while cleaning out my basement, I unearthed a batch of such pencil scrawled sentiments including this one written shortly after I announced my engagement:
“Let’s be fair about it. You are the exception. As a general proposition, Gramps believes in the theorem he has preached for many years. Only parents and grandparents should be allowed to select the spouse for the child. Your choice, we concede, is a good one. It does happen, but rarely, that the child selects exactly the right partner… does that invalidate the theorem? Maybe not! Our selection for you would have been exactly the same if you had asked. We are mightily proud of both of you and we love you very much.”
And this note written from my grandfather to my grandmother and sent via paper airplane from one desk to another (they sat at desks facing one another for more than 4 decades at their co-owned PR firm):
“Management: It is harassment for you to serve only the skim milk to go with coffee. It is also un-American. .. If God had intended that we drink skim milk with coffee she would have built the cow’s udder with different spigots” – Yes, he wrote “she.”
Shortly after my grandfather passed away several years ago, the family discovered numerous marriage proposals, all written in his swirly script – all to my grandmother. One dated 1995, when they had been married for X years reads as follows:
“Would you honor me by accepting this proposal of marriage? Just think… we could have a couple of children, four grandchildren, and then some great grandchildren. All we have to do is love each other and take care of our health and we can live to be 120.”
My husband and I have some history of note writing as well. When work/sleep schedules don’t coincide or most notably when we have taken turns feeding babies in the middle of the night we have communicated not via SMS or text but good old handwritten notes. Our oldest was an infant when the world turned upside down on September 11th, 2001. Interspersed between burp and poop chronicles were words of reassurance, news updates and sleep-deprived sentiments I will always cherish.
Before going away on a business trip, I often leave the kids a silly poem on the mirror above the bathroom sink. Not long ago I stuck such a note in my little guy’s lunch bag on a random day. No business trip, no particular reason. I don’t even remember what it said but the smile on his face when he told me he found it prompted several repeat performances on my part.
And then one day there it was. I went to brush my teeth before bed and staring me in the mirror was not my reflection but a yellow sticky note:
“I love you Momey” with a lopsided smiley face.
The note and rest of the reflection went blurry as tears welled.
The seven year old was fast asleep by the time I found it – so I had to impatiently reserve my gratitude for the next morning. What I saw on his face elated me. His joy at having surprised me exceeded my joy at having been surprised by him.
In the weeks that followed, I found notes and drawings on my desk, tucked into my drawers, I wishes on my pillow and “You are the best parents” letters in the kitchen. Life is so very, very hectic that sometimes I fear entire weeks pass without proper expressions of love or appreciation within our brood. Sure if you look carefully, you can read love between the lines of “make your bed”, “brush your teeth”, “please finish your homework” and “put away your toys.” But a few unexpected words on a sticky note and suddenly I’m seeing dirty socks and scattered Legos through rose colored glasses I quite enjoy.
Tomorrow morning the family will attend the seven year old’s school play. Well past midnight I find myself creeping down the stairs to stick a note of celebration in his school folder.
Sure, I should be sleeping. But my 1st graders recent series of sleuth scrawls on sticky notes reminded me just how great it feels to note and be noted.
This is an original post for JerseyMomsBlog by ItsMeMommy, a New Jersey mom