When I was 36, I moved from Minneapolis to Nashville for a relationship. I distinguish “moving for a relationship” from “moving for a man.”
It was a decision I made because it was what I wanted to do, and not because I was one of those women who would sacrifice anything for the man in her life. I’d made big moves before, so I knew what I was getting into. In fact, I was looking forward to the change and opportunities.
But overall I wasn’t content in Nashville. I broke up with that boyfriend a year after my move, and made only one true friend in the three years I was there.
Still, something special did happen, a seemingly small event, but one that lifted my spirits for years. I wish I could go back in time for this simple reason: to save that letter.
It was January,
a few months before Mark and I split up, and I knew our relationship was coming to an end. Still, I wasn’t going to go out with anybody else until it was officially over, no matter how appealing he might be.
No matter how appealing he might be.
The apartments I lived in at the time were nice, but they didn’t have a washer & dryer hookup in the units. Instead, there were a handful of washers and dryers in the mail room. To avoid the crowd, I did my laundry early Saturday mornings. I didn’t dress up by any means — sweats, no makeup, my hair looking like a bird’s nest. I think I even wore slippers. I did take a shower and brush my teeth (my concession to public sensibilities), and likely wore my contacts out of habit. But it was not a moment to capture in either mind or photo.
A man started showing up at the same time, somewhat older than me, and very kind. We’d talk, but I’m not a morning person, and generally I was there to throw my laundry in and haul back to my apartment. I barely noticed him.
Then one day I got a letter,
in an ordinary office envelope, written on plain yellow ruled paper. The return address was the apartment in the building next to mine. I was curious, and a little nervous. Who on earth?
It was the gentleman who’d been doing his laundry at the same time I was. Turns out it was no coincidence he showed up every Saturday morning for weeks on end. Despite my scarecrow appearance and nominal conversation, he wanted to get to know me.
It was the warmest, most heartfelt letter I’ve ever gotten, ending with an invitation to dinner. It made me feel treasured. I kept that letter for years, and today I have no idea what happened to it.
I spoke to him the following Saturday and told him while I truly valued his letter, I wouldn’t be comfortable going out with him since I was still dating Mark. He suggested coffee, but I couldn’t do even that. I told this gracious man if I ever broke up with my boyfriend, I’d look him up.
By the time Mark and I did split, the man had moved away.
I don’t regret not going out with him. I believe in honoring the relationship you’re in, even if it’s rocky. Tempting yourself isn’t wise.
If I could go back in time, I’d travel to the moment I decided to throw away that letter (if indeed I did, perhaps it was tossed accidentally) and save it instead as the rare gift it was.
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