Friday, January 25, 2013

"Adorable?" Really? Does Adorable Have A Meaning I'm Not Aware Of?

Adorable Letters from Famous Authors to Their Children at Flavorwire will make those of us who are not the offspring of famous authors feel profoundly grateful.

The length of these things, some of which were sent to quite small children, is impressive. I am dead certain that if I had written and sent some of these letters to the Gauthier boys, at least one of them, maybe both, would either have had to give up reading altogether or take it in shifts. I know Ted Hughes (Letter 10) was a well-regarded poet, but someone should have pointed out to him that if he wanted his offspring to read his letters, he needed to be more generous with the paragraph indentations. And maybe not make subtle digs at the kid's dead mom.

Anne Sexton wrote to her 15-year-old daughter with an interesting message that the girl was evidently expected to recall when she was 40 and mom "dead perhaps." I thought it was nice that Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote to his daughter about his work, since I do that with my kids, too. Then he went on to describe how he was thinking of responding to the next person who told him that he'd read his work while in kindergarten but not for years and years now. Did she get back to Dad about that? Because I know at least one of my kids would have gotten back to me with a suggestion or two about dealing with rage.

My older son sent me a card from camp saying only, "Stop sending letters." I imagine F. Scott Fitzgerald's eleven-year-old daughter did the same after she received the lengthy missive that included lines like "I never believe much in happiness" and "If there is such a volume in the camp library, will you ask Mrs. Tyson to let you look up a sonnet of Shakespeare’s in which the line occurs “Lillies that fester smell far worse than weeds.”"

Sherwood Anderson's letter was filled with short paragraphs of pretty decent advice, for the most part. He was probably right about "Next to occupation is the building up of good taste. That is difficult, slow work. Few achieve it." I wondered, after I read it, if I'd actually given my children any lessons on good taste. They picked some up somewhere, because I know of a few situations in which theirs has been shown to be superior to mine. That's a relief, because it might be too late for me to do anything about their education now.

I write to my children nearly every weekend, by e-mail because if e-mail isn't writing, I can't imagine what the heck it is. For a while after reading these letters, I was worried that I'd struggle the next few weekends, fearful of pounding out lists of advice or pouring out angst about career woes or the passage of time. Then I remembered that my most recent e-mail exchange with one son was all about the finale of Fringe and with the other about how he could help me with iPhone questions.

Clearly, we are not Famous Author Family material. We will not be writing nor receiving any adorable e-mails.

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