Love letter, from a kind of bad guy to his beloved daughter
[Written in the spring of 1920, outside, in some hilly Tennessee woods]
To my dear daughter, Lucie,
I could not believe it when I got your letter! My hands shook so bad I put them and your letter into my pockets. I was careful not to bend the envelope. Then I went right out, into the yard and straight to my shed. I started rattling my things around like maybe I had something needing fixing. I would say I was in a state! But then I sat down and opened the letter.
Lucie, I haven’t let myself hope that such a thing as this could ever happen still for me. I’d expect better that a tropical bird might fly into my window here, sit on my knee, and start talking to me. “Hello Ned, silly old fool,” in a friendly like manner. But here your letter is in my hand! And your handwriting especially for the address is like mine as you might see for yourself. That was another surprise.
Thank you for writing Lucie. You may never know how much it means to me. Over the years I must have thought about writing to you at least one hundred times, but I could never think of what to say. You are much braver than me.
This morning, I went into the woods to write my letter to you. I believe I am sitting in a spot I might never been before, even though I come up here more and more these days. I don’t know why this feels like the right place to talk to you. I could find some place quiet enough and where I won’t be interrupted almost anywhere. You probably have some thoughts why this could be the right place for me to write this letter. You always were so good with your thinking and questions too. But I couldn’t ever think of the right answers for you, even when you were not much more than a baby. I make the point because it’s true and also because of what happened with your college school. I am so sorry what happened because I understand you are sad about it. But I know whatever made you leave that place, it cannot be that you are not smart enough. I would bet anything on that! You are the smartest person in that town. I would never doubt you had a good reason to leave.
Well there really is nothing to see in these woods but more woods. I tried many different ways through them and never came across anything worth telling to another person or to put in a letter to be carried for 700 miles to you. I wish I could describe a beautiful view for you, but there are too many trees in the way, every which way I look. Even if I could see through these trees, I doubt I could describe what I saw in a way you would enjoy. I see how good you are with words. But there was one time I saw a shovel that had become part of a tree. Someone must have left it there years ago and forgot about it, so that the tree just kept growing around it. What I mean is it was split at the blade and then came together again up around the handle. The first time I saw it, I was amazed. Now I pass right by it without even looking at. Another day I found the stone foundation of what must have been a home for some of the very first people to settle here. This could sound very strange but I imagined you there! I imagined you and your sister and some of the others sitting around a table there, next to a warm fire. I could see in my mind what you might look like then, a beautiful girl at 12 years old or so. In my mind I also heard the sound of your voice, you telling a story just right, so that everyone was listening and laughing.
I never pass by the place without looking and imagining something of that scene. I stop there often and often I sit and eat my lunch on a good level stone. Sitting there I am just an arm’s reach from your table.
Weeks ago I saw a string of little blooms hanging from a branch. Someone made it for someone, by way of threading the stem of each into a tiny hole in the stem of the next. You know how to do this I remember, but a young lady probably doesn’t bother with that kind of thing much anymore. I don’t know why Lucie, but the sight of it out here startled me! The flowers were already wilting and nothing too special about them to begin with, but still I stood there looking at them for a long time. They swayed a bit in a breeze and there was just enough daylight that the little petals had a glow about them. What is strange is how I can remember it so well but more like I heard it in a story, not so much like I actually saw it. The very next day I could not seem to recall even the colors of the flowers which were all of a kind. Another strange thing is as I was standing there suddenly my cheeks got hot and my hands started to shake just a little. The dog I had with me took off back down the hill without me! And I had this thought very clear in my head, that this beautiful thing was not for me to see or enjoy, so I turned and headed back down the hill too. I don’t know why. Maybe you’ll understand a reason Lucie.
This is all I can think of to tell you now, but thank you again dear daughter for writing to me. I cannot say I feel deserving of your kindness. I never thought something like this could happen for me still. And I could not believe it but for this envelope in my hand. If you want to write to me again I hope you will. I will write back to you every time unless you ask me not to. If you do write again please tell me more about all the animals, the little cousins, and especially your reading and writing. And please anything else you want to tell me.
Have you seen the ocean yet? Have you tried swimming?
Also, if there is a photograph you could send with your letter without too much trouble I would be very happy for that. I think I can imagine you pretty well at 16, all except the eyes. I don’t know why that is, but I am sure they are beautiful.
Your loving father