Certain Man’s Wife and the Circle Letter
Certain Man’s family has a Circle Letter. (Note capital letters, italics and bold font. This is not an accident of punctuation on the part of Certain Man’s Wife.)
This Circle Letter is revered and (almost) holy. Every female sibling and every female in-law is expected to write in it when it presents The Appearance. Every married niece and every female married to a nephew is expected write in it when it presents The Appearance. Certain Man’s elderly Daddy and Mom even write when it comes to them (Well, Mom writes for Daddy now, but he was a graduate of the Palmer Handwriting Method and was proud to put his own letter in when he was able).
Certain Man has been married to Certain Man’s Wife for going on 35 years, and for most of those years there has been the Circle Letter. And for most of those 35 years, CMW has not gotten it right. The Circle Letter puts makes The Appearance and CMW resolves that it will be mailed out in three days (as it is supposed to be.) When CM comes in from work, she tries to place it by his chair so that he will see it and read it in a timely fashion and maybe come under conviction to write it himself.
Long ago, CMW learned that the possibility of that happening was quite remote. Not that it has never happened, but just that it almost never has. (Come on!!! A miracle could happen!) Not only was Certain Man not likely to write it, sometimes he was not likely to even read it! This bothers CMW considerably, as she feels that it is somehow disrespectful and maybe irreverent. It certainly is not the proper response to a Circle Letter.
CM tells her that he doesn’t need the Circle Letterto keep up with the lives of his family. He has unlimited calling on both cell and land lines of the telephone, and if he has something he wants to know, or something he wants to tell them, he calls them. And usually they do likewise. There also is the fact that every single one of his siblings has access to e-mail, and they do use it, too, for important business. Probably they have learned that it certainly isn’t safe to rely on CMW and the Circle Letter.
Something happened to CMW in December of 2005 that somehow affected her brain. When her Beloved Daddy died, there were no stories in her head or heart. Her brain felt fuzzy and tired, and the things that she had been able to laugh at or off suddenly took on different properties and there didn’t seem to be any laughter left. And her journal lay untouched for days. Now and then, when the grief would overwhelm her, she would grab the closest empty page and scribble frantic, desperate prayers, but mostly she went about in a fog and tried to make it through somehow. The Circle Letter would come and lie for days. And weeks. And then she would get it off, but suddenly it would be back again. Sneaky Thing!
There has been a wondrous new thing happening to CMW lately. Though she doesn’t know exactly what has triggered it or why, suddenly, there are stories rattling around in her head.again, and the laughter has returned – at least somewhat. Memories that triggered tears are comforting and welcome. This is an incredible blessing to her and hopefully, to Certain Man and the Offspringin’s.
But in a conversation with an extended member of Certain Man’s family in August, the subject of the Circle Letter came up, and with it a gentle reminder that the fact that it wasn’t being circulated was being blamed upon CMW, and that family feelings were not exactly charitable.
Which caused CMW to think that the Circle Letter did, in fact, reside upon a ledge on her desk. And that with it was another envelope of equal importance holding pictures of a wedding that were to be returned to a far away sister in law. And if her calculations were right, both items had resided there for probably (don’t tell!!!) nine months. (If you ignore some things long enough, they go away! Right?)
Although CMW is aware that there are probably people in the family that are secretly blessing her, she is more keenly aware of the fact that there are people in the family who, though their religion prevents them from using the strong opposite words, are probably doing everything that good Mennonites can do on that side of the line. And it troubled her deeply. Except that to write the Circle Letter now meant not only that she had to take it up and look at it, but also that she would need to find a way of gently leading into the letter that would start the Circle Letter rolling again without causing too much stinging criticism and castigation . And there really was no explanation. That bothered her even more. Because she could have sent it on whether Certain Man read it or not. It has been done before. And lately she has been writing lots of things, so she couldn’t plead that she doesn’t have any words to write.
Then one of the extended family called and wanted to borrow a cookbook from CMW, and CMW found some shirts for two of her children, so she got everything ready to send, but then thought that she shouldn’t sent packages to family members before she had the Circle Letter ready to go. So she left the package on the floor under the desk, thinking that she would get the letter written and send both at the same time. That was at least a month ago. And CMW was heard to say many times, “I need to get that package off, and I need to get the Circle Letter written.” But saying it didn’t get it done.
Then CMW broke her foot. “Aha!” she thought, “I shall have plenty of time to get the Circle Letter written and the package sent off.” And she should have. But she didn’t. And the days went by and the days went by and the days went by. There seemed to always be extenuating circumstances that prevented the accomplishment of the dreaded task.
Then quite suddenly, out of the blue, came a get well card and a letter from one of Certain Man’s nieces in a far away place. The card was kind and the letter was interesting as she told of the antics and activities of her five young children. CMW was impressed. And then, upon examination, CMW noticed that this was a copied letter. Her name had been inserted and a personal note was on the end, but it was definitely a letter that she had written and sent to a number of people.
And suddenly some things that had been rolling around in CMW’s head began to crystalize. First of all, she was not hurt at all by her discovery. In fact, she was touched by it. Here was this busy mother who obviously had several people to write to and had taken the time to write a long and newsy letter and then personalize it for the individuals she was writing to. And though CMW had thought of it before, she realized anew that a written letter for Certain Man’s family is one of the ways that they show love. And that by keeping the Circle Letter for so long, what she was really saying to them was that they were not important to her. Or that she didn’t love them. And she really does! And it is important to her that they understand that she loves them. In fact, she tries very hard to show them that in different ways, but she hadn’t thought that the Circle Letter hollers so loud that they cannot hear anything from her heart.
So she got the Circle Letter written. She is not going to reread the old letters that are in there or check to see how long she has had it. (She is quite sure that there will plenty of them who will do that for her.) And she did not give explanation or excuse. She did say that she was sorry and promised to try to do better if she were given another chance. And tomorrow, she plans to mail it out with the package and the pictures to the far away Sister in Law. And she will ponder again how different families speak love and she will try harder to speak the language of Certain Man’s family.