On First Loves & Lost Letters

LettersNSThey say you only get one first: first kiss, first love, first heartbreak, first moment you cry tears of happiness.

And I believed that. I thought I’d write this post about my first real boyfriend, my high school sweetheart, and how we have a paper trail, boxes full of notes that I kept and had forgotten about until today.

How it’s sweet to look back and smile at how we used to call each other “baby” and “babe” and how we’d fold our wide-ruled, three hole-punched school paper into shapes that’d make Japanese origami experts cringe, then label them with a “to:” and “from:” line that read Your love.

But as I was looking through this box of random cards, notes, and letters I’ve collected over the years, I found so much more than remnants of my first love.

There were Lisa Frank envelopes, mailed with 29 cent stamps, from my first pen pal.

A note my best friend in high school left on the windshield of my first car, reminding me to come over after school so we could watch Friends together.

A napkin with scribbled poetry I wrote to my now-husband when I went on trip to Argentina with my parents and my sister in 2005:

NapkinPoem

And I’ll never duplicate this feeling which is why I miss you.

And I realize that my first love all along has been writing and exchanging words. Not just content, but rather words made physical by scribbling them onto a napkin or a scrap piece of paper or cardboard and delivering it to someone who’ll keep it, and treasure it, and stumble upon it years later, like I did, only to realize it still smells like you.

I thought I’d lament that we no longer write each other letters. Instead, I find myself feeling grateful that I ever sent them in the first place. Real, handwritten letters or notes that we send and then truly let go of.

We can’t open our “sent” file and read the last message we wrote.

When we mail a letter to someone we give a piece of ourselves that’s someone else’s to keep; we don’t expect to get it back.

We lose a part of ourselves for someone else to find.

Do you still have old letters from past loves?

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Natalia Sylvester

Natalia Sylvester is the author of the novel CHASING THE SUN (Lake Union/New Harvest, June 2014), about a frail marriage tested to the extreme by the wife's kidnapping in Lima, Peru. A former magazine editor, she now works as a freelance writer in Texas. Visit her online at nataliasylvester.com

9 thoughts on “On First Loves & Lost Letters

  1. I read that napkin in the picture, Natalia, and got choked up. I love this month because of my daughter’s birthday, a day designated to tell the people I love again, how much they mean to me, and, I’ll confess–spring is right around the corner!!! Lovely post as always.

  2. Yes, so yes, Natalia! I’m right there with you that my first love is “words my physical” — it’s like I can’t properly process the world and my emotions unless I write my thoughts down. AND, I would love to single-handedly bring back the art of letter writing. That would be my contribution to the world. I buy notecards and cool stationary all the time — don’t use it often, but it’s there!

    Dang, now what am I going to write for Friday’s post? 🙂

  3. Omg Natalia, the last lines of this post… <3

    I too am super fond of handwritten things. I still send postcards to friends and family when I travel, and my best friend and I write long rambling notes to each other intermittently. Is it slow and inefficient? Maybe. But beautiful? Surely.

    • I love the handwritten posts on your blog, Kristan. There’s something about stumbling upon lost notes from someone, or even old pieces of poems and journals, that’s like rediscovering a piece of that person (or yourself). It’s also as if we place greater value on these artifacts than say, an old email, because they’re truly unique. Finding them becomes an act of discovery.

  4. I still write letters to a few of my friends. Not as many as I used to, but still. It’s great to get a letter (I type them. No one wants my handwriting to decipher), and it’s a little like having a journal entry to go back to and see what all your fuss was about.

  5. I love this — so beautiful and true. Some of my most cherished things are the letters and cards (I’ve kept probably everything) from my kids and husband. I carry some of the earliest notes from my daughter and son in my wallet — I’ll never take them out. One of my absolute favorites is a love letter my then-boyfriend-now-husband wrote long ago on the back of a cardboard sign he was using to hitchhike to see me. He spent so much time on it that he recalls he must have missed many a ride as he sat by the side of the road, so absorbed in his writing. Great post, Natalia!

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