Tag Archives: lunchbox letters

Expired Love Letters

26 Sep

I write love letters on small squares of thin paper. Sometimes they return home to me, sauce-stained, ink letters bloated beneath water marks. Sometimes the words don’t come back at all. They cling, wet, around another child’s half-finished milk carton in the trash bin. They lie in landfills of coffee grinds and discarded diapers from squalling, rash-angst babies, who have suckled on the deflated breasts of yawning mothers.

I stand by my children’s sandwiches in the early morning, crust sliced clean off, thrown to the tail-wagging, salivating dog. He gobbles it in one leap and paces the floor while I twiddle my pen between middle and index fingers, thinking, softening, aching, even, a little.

No matter what I write, it won’t inject the tide of this…

‘I love you.’

And I don’t care where that message ends up as long as it travels first through their hearts today. I love you!

I write that and a few other words, less important, then tuck the paper swiftly into their lunches. I want my children to read the letters when we are not face-to-face. I don’t want to watch them actually reading it at this very moment. Though, before it has happened, I see my children silently grinning on the words in the noisy, echoing lunchroom, here, while they are just stretched out and pajama footed on the living room rug, picking up the lint – swollen and sleepy-eyed – asking me, what is for breakfast?

God, it hurts, it soothes – how much I feel this thin piece of paper.

It has been four days since I wrote one. Four school days of absence –only plump grapes and slippery carrot sticks. No love letter, because I do not write them every day. Only on some days.

The youngest child flashes high the last letter, like a ticket to the fair, then sweeps it down on the kitchen counter to rest.

“This one is expired,” he informs, with a straight, sober expression.

We walk to school. My daughter races off ahead to be in time for safety patrol duty. The one with the expired love letter tucks his hand beneath mine. We will walk like this under the wooded canopy all the way until the edge, on the top of the hill where other children can maybe see. Then, he will gently, but quickly let-go.

I stand there as a night owl, still and brooding. My eyes follow him until he is gone. And even after, I stay while the dog slaps my thigh with his pounding, impatient tail.

I turn to go back and my feet step over the soft, freshly mulched playground where the workers discuss how to dig out and replace a deeply entrenched border edging. I pass them, head nod, and push my tongue to the roof of my mouth to hold the tear quiet in the crease of my eye.

I imagine all of my children as grown and engaged in whatever purpose they must pursue someday. How many expired love-letters till then?