Updated: Dec 4, 2019
Another year, another encounter with this rather official looking tote... Every Christmas my visit with this non-holiday interloper is the same. I see it and enter a nostalgic trance; the memories crowding out all else. Minutes pass. I pull it over and unlatch the locks which remain trained to the "000" factory setting. Among all attic citizens, its treasures hold no mystery. It’s an old friend that my children will discover someday and scratch their heads over. Why did Dad save these? What’s inside?
Letters from the summer of 1992 to be exact. I was in basic training at the Air Force Academy and a steady stream of correspondence poured in from friends and family. Those letters were as close to pure love as you could get for a homesick kid in the midst of a great challenge. They helped sustain me; a 1000-mile hug from everyone I knew and missed back home. These days they are cached images: the young faces of my parents and brothers; an ornate door covered with dials on P.O. Box 3594 in the cadet mail room; thoughts of saying goodbye at the Pensacola airport; and the joy of seeing my parents at the end of that first summer. Today I find myself looking forward through the past. I’ll write the same letters to my sons. Those days aren’t too far away; as inevitable as California wildfire in the fall...and sometimes as scary to contemplate. I’ve written a couple for my USAFA classmates that have kids there now. They mean so much.
Occasionally I wonder why I'm holding on to them. I grab a yellowing envelope from the top and read. Another wave of memories wash over; pleasant and fresh...an old home movie playing that I haven't seen in a while. I carefully place the love back in the time capsule and push it to the back...ready to be enjoyed again next year.