Just like many other letters I’ve written, I started this one by tapping my pen against my teeth and staring at the blue lines on the new notebook.
But this one was more of a challenge. When I began to write, I used large round letters and separated the words with wide spaces. No need for synonyms and a palette of active verbs.
This letter was to my daughter.
“Dear Becky,” I wrote. “I can see you swim. You like to swim. Will you write back to me?”
The notebook came back to me later the same day, bright stickers plastered all over the next page. Two brown bears sat at the bottom edge of the paper with purple-and-green notes dancing above a stick figure that was either playing the piano or feeding a badger. I couldn’t be sure.
But Becky had written back: “Dear Mom, Do you like the picture?”
I did. I answered her with several questions. Writing prompts, if you must know.
She responded mostly with pictures and a short sentence with the a’s and r’s turned backward.
But soon she was writing more than one sentence. One day she wrote in all caps, “I CAN RUN 10 OR 5. DO YOU LIKE CATS. OR DOG.”
Becky has dyslexia. When our letter exchange began, she was 8 and could barely read.
I’ve learned over the years that a dyslexic never sees the same word twice. The letters twist and spin in a merry dance that both entertains and frustrates.
Her creative mind loved generating imaginary worlds unlimited by dimension. The discipline of anchoring letters on a line on a page was boring. Why bother?
She was willing, however, to plow through my notes to her. They were personal, they were simple, and I always closed them with “I love you.” How much better could it get?
One day she wrote me a story that opened like this: “I haev a s dream a boy wuz woke a with 10 boys cam.”
What would you do with that?
I have been a writer since I was 12. I remember pounding out stories on an old black Royal typewriter during the hot summer days of my high school years. Now my daughter couldn’t read. Or write.
But I could.
Back and forth the letters went. She began to write more stories. Our dog Blizzard appeared in several, as did a story about Jesus and lost sheep.
Then a princess emerged, going to the Gold City in a red dress.
Becky’s handwriting began to change. Where once she’d written jagged letters, now her words were rounded. Her stories grew in length.
We lost the notebook for a few years, probably buried under a pile of laundry when we moved. But Becky found it one day and shoved it back in my hands.
“Dear Mom,” she had written, “How are you? I found this book and thought we could start it again. Write back soon.”
I did. This time, my response was in cursive because she could read that. And our entries were no longer two-sentence entries but pages of questions and stories.
When I first began writing to Becky, I also tried to set a regular writing routine for myself but had little success. I was afraid to admit to most people that I wanted to write, because I wasn’t sure my writing could be of use to anyone. I froze wondering if it was good enough.
Many of us struggle to find meaning through our writing. Maybe we haven’t published yet or we’re nervous that we may never again. We wonder, what good is a writer without a byline?
It’s been 12 years since Becky and I started our notebook of letters. Today, my daughter has earned her Associates degree at our local community college with a 4.0 grade point average and is working toward a teaching degree.
Today, I’m a writer. Did I have value as a writer in those days, writing simple notes to my daughter using first-grade handwriting?
Well, I wrote letters to a needy little girl.
And, believe me, that counts.
Kathy Brasby is a writer and speaker seeking the heart of God.