Our task for Writers' Group this month is to write an Open Letter to anyone we like - about anything we like. I have decided to write one to my parents, who both died in 1972. I thought I would share it with you.
Dear Mum and Dad, In the thirty-eight years since you died I have thought of you almost every day and have often thought of things I wish I had said to you when you were still alive.
We were never a demonstrative family; the odd kiss when we met or parted company; the praise when any of us did anything to make you proud (the praise was always muted). I have no doubt at all that you loved us but you never said so and nor did we. 'Stiff Upper Lip' was the family code of behaviour. Hugs and cuddles were for wimps - although I doubt that the word had been invented in those days.
So here are just a few of the things I wish I had said to you all those years ago.
Mum - each time I use your thimble I smile at the thought of your aversion to sewing. The thimble is far too small for me but i still use it because it reminds me of you. You had a real hatred of sewing, brought about by an inferiority complex of marrying into a family where all the girls were either tailoresses or milliners. And I want to say to you - nobody judged you on your sewing ability - forget it - you had plenty of other qualities which they lacked. Your beautiful singing voice for a start - I would often hear you singing when you were pegging washing out at the bottom of the garden. And your stoicism. I look back upon family crises and I know that it was you who was the strong one, you who got us through unscathed.
I like to think that I have inherited that stoicism to some extent, that whatever I am facing on the inside I like to show a strong front to the world
Dad - I think of you every day and thank you for instilling in me a love of Nature. I think of the hours we walked together when I was very young - hours when we identified every wild flower we passed, noted every bird and listened to its song, looked for nests in the banks and hedgerows - I do it still.
And your love of poetry. It was always easy to buy you a present - another poetry book. You would read them by the hour in the winter evenings - often reading them aloud. You could recite many of the old poems off by heart - The Jackdaw of Rheims, The Battle of Blenheim...
I have most of your poetry books still, your name written inside the front cover in your neat, spidery hand.
I still love the anemones which were your favourite, Mum. I used to buy them for you and I can still picture them on the dining table in the little crystal vase you had inherited. And if there were no anemones you would pick wallflowers from the garden instead - the scent of them now brings the picture of that dining room table into my head.
So much of what I am I owe to you both - and I thank you for it. It is a bit late in the day to tell you that I love you both dearly - but I daresay that if I had said it when you were alive you would have both been highly embarrassed. As I get older the memories of you both become stronger. I suppose that is how we live on - through the lives of our children. Rest easy - you were the best.