When thinking about all of the “stuff” I own, the clothes I donate each year, the leftover food I never get to, the dust I sweep up off the floors, and the stuffed animals I donated when I moved out of my parent’s house, it makes me think about what I really value in my life. I have slept with the same teddy bear since I was 10 years old and I am now a 20 year old full grown woman. I can’t sleep without him, but if my house was going up in flames, I wouldn’t risk my life dodging flames to safe my dingy-oversized teddy bear.
The question I am left with is what would I dodge flames for? What singular item would I risk singed eyebrows over? What tangible “thing” would I risk dying for so I could have it for the rest of my life? I would risk everything for words. I would risk everything so I could remember the words people took the time to write down so I wouldn’t forget. I have a chest of letters my closest friends and family have written to me while I was away working at summer camps, birthdays, graduations, big accomplishments, and “just because” letters. Words and what people have to say has always been held to high regard in my eyes because they are the most tangible thing that you can’t touch. Something that is tangible without touching it? I know that doesn’t make much sense. Listen to me when I say this, words are powerful. Words evoke emotion, and we feel emotions even when we ask politely not to. Words are tangible through tears, through the burning in one’s throat, through the heat under one’s cheeks, through the curve of a smile. I have felt all of these emotions and more from letters I’ve received in the mail, hidden under my pillow, on the dashboard of my car, and notes passed in class with check “yes or no” boxes. When someone takes the time to sit down and write how they feel on a piece of paper, I place it in the chest and pray that my house never goes up in flames because without a doubt I would pull up my big girl pants, blow a kiss up to the sky, and run in to save them.
Words are what this country was founded upon, think of the Declaration of Independence. Think even of the slew of letters it took for the Declaration of Independence to even be a realistic idea, that someday, somehow, The United States would stand alone as its own country. We write words in baby books so we remember exactly how it felt to watch baby walk for the first time, how it felt to hear baby say “mama” for the first time. We use words to take us back to the moments we promise we’ll never forget. Many people, like myself, take to writing in journals. I have journal entries from my first kiss, my first day of high school, my first day driving, my first heartbreak–authentic tear stains definitely included. When I read over these entries, I feel the emotions I felt five years ago that I thought were gone forever. I’m not sure anything else can take me back to those moments better than my own heartbroken, excited, all-caps words.
I would dodge flames to save my chest of letters because those letters contain the most important aspect of memories and life: words. I would risk everything so I could remember the words people took the time to write down so I wouldn’t forget.
A few sweet letters from my friends last summer:
The map of Europe above my bed is lined with the envelopes from letters I’ve received throughout the summer and year, my most cherished part of my room!