For this boomer, time again for love letters

Of all the endeavors people have written about to fill their time while sheltering in place, none quite tugs at the heartstrings more than Gary Carter’s, written as he himself hunkered down at home in Asheville, North Carolina.

While ticking deck staining off my locked-down-at-home to-do list, I found myself harmonizing along, via Spotify, to a soulful rendition by Boz Scaggs of the classic “Love Letters.”

Ketty Lester

It was first a hit in 1962 for Ketty Lester but made famous by Elvis in 1966. It’s aching and tender and old-school:

I memorize every line
And I kiss the name that you sign
And, darling, then I read again right from the start
Love letters straight from your heart.

Which made me think about the loving soul somewhere inside the house… and that it had been a long time since I crafted a real love letter to her as I did once upon a time. I don’t mean an email or a note in a card on a special made-by-Hallmark occasion, but a handwritten “straight from your heart” testimonial to the joy she brings into my life each day, the faith she’s shown in me (not always deserved), and the blessing she is to my barnacled old soul.

Neil Young

And, as if on cue, Neil Young kicks in with “One of These Days” from his superb “Harvest Moon” album, crooning as only he can:

One of these days
I’m going to sit down and write a long letter
To all the good friends I’ve known
And I’m going to try
And thank them all for the good times together
Though so apart we’ve grown.

Maybe this is what we all should be considering while sheltering at home, trying to survive these crazy times. Granted, for many of us it’s challenging to sit down face to face and spill our guts, to undertake a truly honest admission of our feelings, to find all the right words. Perhaps this is the right time to pick up pen, take out a sheet of paper, and open ourselves up, no holds barred. Not punching out hard-edged black type on an unblinking screen, but actually etching words into fiber. Doesn’t have to be flowery or literary or grammatically perfect, just words that feel right, that say something that needs to be said.

Writer Gary Carter.

Maybe it’s directed to the one who holds our heart and makes us whole. Or maybe it’s Mom or Dad or sister or brother or child or friend, here now or long lost. Or it could be the opportunity to deal with “things done and left undone” as illuminated in the Book of Common Prayer-– making amends, crafting an apology, exposing truth to light. Not an easy task or painless, but chances worth taking as we feel the world shape-shifting around us and leaving us with the helpless sensation of being unmoored and drifting.

Most of all, consider the comfort it could bring someone you care about and the balm to your own soul in these trying times. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find one day soon a return letter in your mailbox that will make your heart sing.


  1. Like many folks these days my husband and I were sorting through boxes of old photos and memorabilia when we came across a stuffed manilla envelope. Inside were postcards sent from Italy on the occasion of his parents’ wedding. They were quite beautiful and, I think, exceptional for their color. There were telegrams from Sicily too, and some documents. Everything in Italian. And there was a handwritten letter. It was addressed to his mother, on their 30th anniversary, from his dad. His simple words of love and appreciation for his wife moved me to tears.

    He was a stonemason, a man whose English was still rough, and not a man prone to taking pen in hand. He came to America at age 16 with a grade school education. Years later he returned to Sicily to marry and bring his wife to America. He worked hard–strong in physique and spirit–caring for his family. They raised four boys.

    I’m fortunate to be married to one of them. Unlike his dad, he takes to paper often. I get no Hallmark cards on my birthday, anniversary, or Christmas. Instead, there’s always a special note, penned on his monogrammed stationery, that lets me know just how loved I am. I’ve learned to do the same. And each of us has those notes and letters tucked in a drawer, to be taken out, occasionally, and reread to bring a smile or tear to the eye.

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