Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Said the Fly to the Bee . . .

Many decades ago I was a lonely freshman in a university hundreds of miles from home, the first person in any branch of my family ever to go to college from high school. I had a scholarship, but I still have the ledger in which I recorded my expenses of 5 cents or more. I was always on the verge of being broke and always sure I was going to flunk out.

I wrote many letters on long pieces of yellow legal pad and a few on my portable Smith Corona manual typewriter. One of my best friends was a girl who was never a girlfriend but a welcome confidante with a family life much more difficult than my own. When she did not answer letters for two months, I felt abandoned. Then in early December she wrote a 3 page letter in flawless blue ink and proudly straight lines on parchment-like cream colored paper. I still have it.

She gave me her reasons for not writing but never turned them into excuses. Her family story would make a Tennessee Williams’ family look un-dramatic and mellow. She had been its prisoner. Enough. I recall her letter because after her own eloquent and moving apology that put my own troubles in perspective, she ended with her favorite poem from Emily Dickinson.

It’s a poem I copied and sent back to her today, 50 years after I received it from her. I did so because again, she has not written for a few months and I worry her life again is filled with troubles—a very sick husband, renegade children, her own crippling arthritis.

If you ever need a persuasive way to encourage a friend to resume correspondence send this:

Bee, I'm expecting you.
Was saying yesterday.
To someone you know
Think you were due.

The frogs came last week,
are settled and at work,
birds mostly back,
the clover warm and thick.

You'll get my letter by
The seventeenth; reply,
or better, be with me.