Saturday, November 11, 2006

A veteran and a red pen -- jcarolek

Once, my daughter wrote a thank you note to my great Aunt June. Aunt June was known for her “moodiness.” Had she exercised her body as much as she exercised her Last Will and Testament, which she constantly changed to reflect her latest mood, she would have probably lived another ten years, but, I digress.

Aunt June sent my daughter a slip for Christmas. As long as I can recall, Aunt June had sent young girls slips for Christmas. I never wore any that she sent me, and my daughter’s slips met much the same fate. I think Aunt June had purchased the clearance rack at a 1950’s lingerie counter

, because she never failed…we always got a slip.

The Christmas Jen was about twelve, she set about writing her thank you note to Aunt June. Aunt June’s husband had died a few years earlier, so, Jen addressed her thank you note to “June Duncan."

I gave her a stamp and into the mail it went. I was a great mom. I had taught my children such good manners. They always wrote their thank you notes in good order and never complained about getting gifts they would never use.

And then, in just a few days, there was a return letter from Aunt June, addressed to,
“Miss Jennifer M_____” (real last name omitted to ensure nobody hunts Jen down to send her more slips).

When Jen opened the letter, she found only her own thank you note inside. On the envelope this lovely 70+ year old woman had taken the time to mark through the “June Duncan” with a read pen. In its place she had written, “Mrs. Chas A. Duncan”. When Jen opened her thank you note, she found similar “corrections” throughout.

I watched my daughter’s face, as she looked with dismay on what she held in her hands. Her good work had been subjected to a critique, rather than accepted for its intended purpose. Jen never again wrote to Aunt June. She was not sorry when she reached 18 and Aunt June cut off the Christmas slips. She managed to cross that slippery line without ever looking back.

When Aunt June died three years ago, very few people attended her funeral. Part of this can be attributed to her age, for she was 86. But part of it was because she spent her life being so critical of others, she forgot to enjoy the love they were trying to give her. Jen’s letter is just one demonstration of this, but I could cite many others.

Today, when I receive a note from anyone, but especially from Jen, I make certain I read the intended message, rather than focusing on the grammatical errors. This is not easy for me to do, as I too am driven to “correct.” I have decided, in memory of Aunt June, who, by the way was a veteran of WWII, that I shall live my life enjoying the love others are willing to share with me, rather than correcting their demonstrations of love with my all-knowing red marker.

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