Morning came and I went looking for a letter one of my grandmothers had written me. It was easy. There in the closet on the shelf in the plastic jewelry box that never held jewels. After opening the clasp, the letter held a surprise. At some point I had simply added to the contents. There were 2 letters inside, one from each of my grandmothers, who I had never seen together in real life, were sitting in that envelope together. Each were the body size of the people who were my parents. So, I named them that way, the Big Grandma and the Little Grandma. And that is exactly how they signed their names! All these years later, I sort of believed that was my little secret way of keeping them straight. They were mostly the heat of the summer grandmas, since we only got to see them in the dead heat of July each year because we lived deep in the heart of Texas and came when my dad had time off from work in the summer.
I went to find the letter my Big Grandma had written. First cataracts and then glaucoma dimmed her eyesight and her once beautiful cursive handwriting had changed to bold and scrawling, and yet she took the effort to write me a letter. One I remembered and could find in my closet in a matter of minutes of longing to see it. The privilege of that act is not lost on me. To have had the stability, the sheer luck of not experiencing any number of disasters that could have taken all of those hidden treasures away in a moment, by fire or wind or as so many of you have experienced, by unregulated flood waters.
Though almost blind, she apparently was not caught up in the loss of the grand penmanship she once had, she wrote me anyway. Don’t be held back.
Write a letter to a friend, a child, a person in prison, show some compassion with your time.
When was the last time you got a letter? Or a postcard? Think about the lonely federal officials sitting in front of their desks in the loneliest of places: Washington, DC. Brighten their day. Send them a postcard, one of ours, or one that you had stashed in a drawer from a trip you took to Disneyland, send it with a message about your hope that this place you live will be a destination for people in the future who long to see what a safe flood resistance place might look like. A place that their own federal agency (commission) helped protect from flooding when they improve and then approve the federal license for the entity that has flooded us in the past.
Let’s go there with your imagination. What would you say to save your town, save your home? Would you write that letter, send that card, even though your eyesight had failed and your once beautiful handwriting gone, the bold marks on the paper will be saved years after your death? Because a letter is a manifest of thoughts captured on paper and when received, held with your hands to read. The physical sharing of DNA on the paper is something you cannot feel in an email or a text message years from now. But think about the messages, memories you or the people down the street lost in not one flood but the multiple ones they have experienced. Those letters lost.
More than ever, I am feeling the urge to write another letter and then another. Not only to family but also to my former students in prison, friends but to the federal agencies who have sway over the lives of the people I know and those I never met to ask for their help, just like I am asking you to do the same. People used to do this. And we can too.
The price of a stamp has gone up from the 4-cent stamp on my grandmother’s envelope. Don’t regret the price difference. Imagine how much money it takes to have a person bring that letter to your mailbox, how it was transported, and sorted.
Inspire someone. Write a letter, a card. Join the past, take it into the future.
“On the far side of the trail there was a promise,” the promise was land, the land was land to provide, to live on into the future. It was not land that would be permanently under a lake or periodically flooded by backed up water held too long by regulators for monetary gain. As you contemplate the flooding you personally experience, think also of the promise to the tribes when given property to compensate for ancestral lands taken as the United States expanded. Look then at LEAD Agency’s Flood Map and see how much of these tribal lands go underwater each time these floods inundate the county.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim