Have you ever felt a bit lonely? The Lady of the House has. When her children were small, during a string of household relocations as long as your arm - when families will set about visiting new churches and feel like outsiders until they are eventually grafted in somewhere – if ever they are grafted in – her prayers of supplication were uttered with deep longing.
She longed to be connected with a like-minded homemaker or two. During the day, during the week, the neighborhoods seemed deserted.
With the spring thaw the Man-of-the-House saw to it that the mailbox was given a new post and rooted back in the ground. In autumn the mailbox was vandalized. It was broken at its base and left for dead. There it lay until the snow covered it.
The foolhardy vandals of course, didn’t stop to consider what a meaningful symbol the mailbox is to the Lady-of-the-House. It has been, for most of her life, her primary means of parley over the garden fence.
Her courtship with the Man-of-the-House was a long-distance courtship through letters and the telephone. It is possible to fall in love and then be in love through letters. For married couples little notes on the pillow are a way to stay in love.
“Friends are there when your hopes are raveled and your nerves are knotted, talking about nothing in particular, you can feel the tangles untwist.” Pam Brown
Passing a multi-generational farmhouse that sits back from the road, she has spied – more than once - an old Amish woman walking slowly down her long drive to the mailbox. “It must be her only source of connection to the world mid-week,” sympathized the Lady-of-the-House. Although it is the very small world of an Amish community – it is community.
The old woman’s mailbox was vandalized, too. The Lady-of-the-House saw her son (or grandson) with hammer in hand, setting it to rights.
To find an envelope in her mailbox with her name handwritten on it is always pure delight to the Lady-of-the-House. Most of her friends are long distance friends – partly because of moving so often – and partly because she has been writing and reaching out with her message of homeschool hope for more than twenty years.
She no longer has the same bouts of loneliness she once had.
( Painting by Frederick Goodall, 1822-1904,
"Letter from Papa" )
“A friend’s writing on an envelope lifts the heart on the rainiest morning.” Charlotte Gray
Although paper letters are far fewer in this century than the last, an envelope on the windowsill is often part of the décor – whether it is a letter received or one just written.
The nice thing about a letter received (although it does require self-control) is that it can be placed invitingly on a windowsill or near an easy chair – until it can be read with leisure - something to look forward to and savor after a string of time sensitive chores are completed. It is a similar pleasure to “loose oneself” in a reply.
A sense of community touches the lives of those who discriminatingly visit blogs now and again. It is remarkable what a few minutes of like-mindedness can do to lift the spirits. The Lady-of-the-House had only visited a few blogs when she started hers. They were needlework blogs. How exciting it was - the first week she posted on “Moments with Mother Culture” - to know that someone had visited and felt welcome.
“Giving encouragement to others is a most welcome gift, for the results of it are lifted spirits, increased self-worth, and a hopeful future.” Florence Littauer
She remembers the twinge of nervousness she felt when she attempted to pluck up courage to leave her first comment on a stranger’s blog. How concise should the note be? Do I address a stranger by her first name? I must be careful not to sound like a know-it-all with my opinion. The fact that she noticed afterward that she irrevocably misspelled a word didn’t help matters. “Never mind,” she told herself, “It’s the thought that counts.” Now she is relaxed enough to enjoy leaving a comment and a bit more emboldened.
Flattery isn’t the essence of the comments she reads, or occasionally sends or receives. Rather, within her circle of on-line friends she perceives a sense of appreciation, and community – a genuine desire to encourage. Similar joys are shared, similar concerns and aspirations, similar tears are shed, similar efforts made, similar interests enjoyed.
Because she believes that guidelines are important when it comes to screen-time the Lady-of-the-House has days when she makes it a point not to be on-line. Media can unintentionally be a wedge in developing person-to-person relationships (including the family circle) when people connect each to their own worlds for long hours (which mysteriously never seem long while absorbed). Technology is a good thing but caution is needed.
A Story About Friendship
Reading Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford (published in 1853) was formidable the first time round. The Lady-of-the-House remembers tottering her way through it a few years ago – a sort of three pages forward, one page back. One reason for the difficulty may have been that she was introduced to the story through the British film. The book seemed “topsy-turvy” in comparison (to borrow a phrase of Mr. Holbrook’s). Over the winter she picked it up again. Magically the story unfolded with greater ease of comprehension. Miss Charlotte Mason is right.
“Having read the best books once we have only breakfasted.”
The book meanders its way through a somewhat backward English town of the mid-19th century. It is a less complicated plot than the film, has no bright red blood, and fewer characters. The kind of things that loom large on the hearts and minds of a soiree of single and widowed ladies, women who occasionally wear silks to an evening party (though independent of fashion) and who keep a servant to make the tea – are what make the story.
Mrs. Gaskell paints a sometimes bizarre but touching story of friendship. The ladies have their eccentricities “pretty strongly developed . . . but somehow good-will reigns among them to a considerable degree, with only an occasional little quarrel.”
This soiree of ladies is observed through the eyes of the young lady, Miss Anne Smith. She narrates the story with her best attention given to her closest friend of Cranford, the older-in-years Miss Matilda Jenkins. Their friendship turns especially tender when hardship enters Miss Matty’s life, circumstances that “necessitate many careful economies and many pieces of self-denial.” But the story has a happy ending, the result of Miss Smith sticking her nose (and pen) caringly into Miss Matty’s business and doing so in a delicate and discrete manner.
The Lady-of-the-House feels richer for knowing the ladies of Cranford – fictional friends though they are. She even picked up on Miss Smith’s subtle humor this time round. To close the book at the last page was a sentimental wave good-bye.
The Friendliest Action of All
The loneliest experience in all of history was also the friendliest act of all. While our Lord Jesus hung on the cross His Father turned His face away. The Son cried out in unfathomable loneliness. He gave His life unreservedly to ransom our souls out of love and obedience to the Father. Now we, who were once enemies, can be His friends – forever.
Is it a wonder that the hymn, “What a friend we have in Jesus” is a favorite of so many Christians?
Explanation of Photographs
Stitching a pin keep for a friendship afar
The Andreola mailbox
Neighborhood Amish farm
Letter on the landing
An Edith Holden illustrated address book
Thank-you note on the refrigerator from two darling little girls who live in Texas
The cover of Cranford with actress Dame Judi Dench as Miss Matty
(The surgery in "Cranford" the film, makes it rather intense for children.)
The Lady-of-the-House picking daffodils for her pewter mug.
Daffodils on the fireplace mantel with antique chocolate bunny mold.