By Kathleen English Cadmus
I placed my boyfriend’s letters into a square white box, because that’s what we did when the boy was in one college and the girl hundreds of miles away in another, we wrote letters and saved them believing they would be important some day; but with marriage, babies, grief, loss, separation, and divorce, the box, bent in and soiled with dust and time, was pushed back on the shelf, or maybe I mostly lacked the strength to throw the letters out for it would feel like a betrayal to the person I used to be, for surely those letters were proof someone once-upon-a-time thrilled at my mere existence, loving me just for me being me; although one letter, not in that box, I was severely tempted to save, gifted to me two decades later from another man more infatuated with me than I with him, evidenced by his flowers and words used to praise my beauty, kindness, tenderness, and attributes I didn’t believe I had; yet in spite of all this, I ignored his letter’s begging and manipulative tone, reading his letter over and over again, exhilarated that my bruised ego, damaged by betrayal, rejection, and divorce, was being soothed and nourished; but in spite of all this, his letter met its demise when I ripped it up and threw it into the wood burning fireplace, breathing in the scent and savoring its essence, because after all, he was the recently divorced husband of my very best friend; of course, it was the right thing to do.
Another letter, unique and precious and hastily sprawled in big letters with a thick red crayon on the inside wall of our garage, I desperately wanted to save because it had been written by my son Shawn saying, “Rode my bike to the park, be back soon, I love you, Shawn;” yet it couldn’t be saved because, since we sold our home and were moving away, removing it was the right thing to do, even though it conflicted with the fact Shawn, too, had done the right thing by following my rule to always leave a note so I would know where he was, and even though the note stayed on the wall through many of Shawn’s trips to and from the park, and even though, tragically, before Shawn turned twelve, it would have been a miracle for him to be back soon… for my beloved child was gone from the earth, having fallen from a cliff during adventurous exploring; so after packing memories into more boxes and boxes into the moving van and before the moving van moved from our driveway of the home overflowing with precious memories where I had lived for decades, I gently stroked the garage wall with a soft, thick brush, coating Shawn’s words with tear-stained garage-white paint, pushing his words of love permanently and deeper into my heart which is, after all, the right place for them to live.
Kathleen English Cadmus is a 2016 graduate of Ashland University’s MFA Nonfiction program. Her memoir, Intertwined: A Mother’s Memoir, was published by KiCam Press in 2019, and her essay, “The Novice,” was published in the anthology, Learning to Heal, which was published by Kent State University Press in 2018.