The Joy of Letters
The latest 'Father Figuring' column
I wish that joy could fill every moment of Jessie’s life, but children, like their parents, must overcome difficulties. Two major challenges Jessie has faced in her young life come to mind.
The first was when Jessie’s beloved dog, Ginger, died. Ginger was Jessie’s “sister” and wore as many outfits as Jessie’s Barbie dolls. Jessie didn’t just cry, she wailed.
The other time Jessie’s tears flowed faster than the tissues could keep up occurred when my wife, Mattie, and I broke the news that we were moving to a new state. Jessie knew this meant her relationship with her friends — the only friends she had ever known — would change. Of course, Mattie and I emphasized the positives of the move: a good career opportunity, closer to family (some readers might not see this as a positive) and a chance for Jessie to meet new friends. All Jessie cared about when we pulled the rug out from under her young life was that she would miss her current friends.
I understood, as I didn’t want to move either. Switching from a manual toothbrush to an electric one is too much of an adjustment for me. I’m not a big fan of change and, from experience, I knew a move was a major one — and a big headache.
Mattie and I tried to convince Jessie that she would eventually be happy. “You can write letters, text and Instagram.”
Even with that said, Jessie’s stuffed animals continued to collect her tears.
I’ve always heard, “Kids adjust to change much quicker than adults.” From what I’ve seen, this is true. The transition to a new state and school went well for Jessie, but I’ll let her share her thoughts with you.
JESSIE, AGE 12:
I moved from Statesboro, Georgia, at the end of last summer. I have found out that it is easier than ever to contact to your friends via text, email or social media, but of all the forms of long-distance communication, receiving good old-fashioned letters is my favorite. I go to the mailbox every day, excited to see if any of my pen pals wrote.
I also enjoy writing letters. I have a huge tub full of cards and stationery. I enjoy thinking about the happiness receiving letters brings to others. I have saved all the letters I have received since I moved to Florida. They are special to me. I hope I have convinced you why it’s good to write letters, as well as taking advantage of today’s technology. Now, let’s get back to Dad.
Of course, a piece of paper, card or electronic post isn’t the same as an in-person hug — or dog love — but I’ll choose mail over wail anytime. Though I like to get the mail when it arrives, I wait for Jessie until she gets home from school. My reward, other than not receiving bills earlier in the day, is to see Jessie running with a card in her outstretched arm. I can always tell when she receives a letter from one of her friends, not only because she waves it high in the air, but because of the big smile on her face.
We live in a changing, challenged-filled world. It’s great when we have family and friends with whom we can share the good times — and not-so-good times. I don’t write as many letters as I once did, but Jessie is right: There is joy in both sending and receiving cards and letters. Who know? Maybe one day I’ll write a letter to a friend or family member to say how much I like my electric toothbrush, though I doubt it.
Patrick Hempfing had a 20-year professional career in banking, accounting and auditing before he became a father at age 44. He is now a full-time husband, stay-at-home dad and writer. He is the author of “MoMENts: A Dad Holds On,” available at amazon.com. Follow him at patrickhempfing.com. J.L. Hempfing, now 14, began writing with her dad in kindergarten. Her current hobbies include reading, writing, playing clarinet and alto saxophone, and dancing.