By Robin Lentz Worgan/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS
I am a newspaper junkie. I read local newspapers wherever we travel, and friends often send me links to essays they think I might enjoy.
Though I appreciate their thoughtful gestures, I must admit that, out of all the ways I receive things to read, my favourite begins with a walk down to my black mailbox.
Most days are uneventful; other days I reach in, and there it is: a letter from my mother. Not just any ordinary letter, but a fat, misshaped envelope letting me know that she has sent me an article.
For all of my adult life, my mom has been sending me articles. She began the day she kissed me goodbye at college hockey camp.
When I married at the young age of 23 and followed my husband to graduate school at the University of Georgia, she sent me letters filled with family gossip, easy recipes to try, a few newspaper clippings, and a rolled-up $10 bill.
Later, after I moved to Pittsburgh and had become a young mother struggling with sleeplessness, toddler antics and the challenges of breast-feeding, mom’s envelopes became my saviour. The topics of her mailed articles ranged from miscarriages to mothering to book reviews to teaching to travelling and more.
Whenever her letters arrived, my heart raced. I ripped into the lopsided envelope and dewrinkled the newspaper pieces. As I smoothed out the newsprint, I felt the warmth of my mom’s fingers that had touched and folded each article with love. I pictured the newspaper in her hands each morning while she drank her Lipton tea and ate her folded-up buttered toast.
My mom rarely used scissors to cut out an article. She just ripped around the edges, folded it up, and sent it while she thought of it. Sometimes she ripped it so fast that there would be a few words missing here or there, but that only made the article much more intriguing to read.
Her ripping technique allowed her to be immediate and prompt, so when I ran my fingers along the fringed sides of the article, I could feel her urgency to get that particular piece of news to me.
As children, my four siblings and I knew that if mom was reading the newspaper, we could get away with almost anything. It was always best to ask her permission to do something risky in the midst of her reading, her razor-sharp concentration focused on The Philadelphia Inquirer or New York Times.
When she was in her reading zone, it was a perfect time for me to spend extra time on the phone with my boyfriend or ask if I could spend the night out somewhere that weekend. She would murmur a quick answer - usually the one I was looking for - and then go right back to her reading.
Mom read two or three newspapers a day, saving any unfinished sections in piles next to our fireplace. If my father tried to burn the pieces or, in later years, put them in the recycling bin, she would protest. She had every intention of finishing all those articles.
Now I am back in the Philadelphia area, and my mom lives 10 minutes away. And still, every once in a while, I will receive a fat envelope filled with a short letter written on exquisite pale blue stationery and an article on one of my current obsessions, whether it’s ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), parental grief, young adult literature, or teens and technology. And yes, I still get a rapid heartbeat over the curiosity and the connection to my mom.
My oldest daughter, Elizabeth, is a senior in college. She has her own website and business and is tech savvy in every way. Yet I still mail her articles on art, fashion, business and music.
She spent a semester in London, so recently I sent her a few articles, one about London bands and another on David Bowie. Unlike my mom, I use scissors to cut out my articles, but I often let them sit for a while before mailing them so they don’t have the same sense of urgency that my mom’s ripped articles conveyed to me.
Still, I hope that when Elizabeth pulls my envelopes out of her post office box - minus the fringed sides and fancy stationery - she feels my long-distance love in those enclosed news pieces. I hope she doesn’t just concentrate on the $10 Starbucks card inside!
I also hope and pray that print newspapers live on so that I can preserve the tradition of sending Elizabeth newspaper clippings through her many life stages, just as her grandmother has done for me.
- Robin Lentz Worgan is a freelance writer and teacher in Flourtown, Pennsylvania. Readers may send her e-mail at [email protected]
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