This letter marks the first in a series that I am going to write to people that have been pivotal influences on me. It’s my opportunity to thank them and recognise openly how they have helped me.
I was inspired to write these letters after reading Dame Quentin Bryce’s book, Dear Quentin. It is a generous and personal read into the time that she spent as Governor-General of Australia. And don’t let the hair, lippy and Chanel suit fool you – Dame Quentin is a powerful force and feminist of the highest order.
The first letter is to my high school English teacher.
I hope this letter finds you well and puts a smile on your face. As opposed to the alternative, which might include freaking you out because a student from 20 years ago has written to you! Might I add that I still feel a bit funny about calling you ‘Kathy’, but you did insist when we caught up for coffee a couple of times after I finished school that I must.
I’m writing this letter to you while my youngest daughter (8 months) is having her morning sleep and my two older daughters (4 and 2 years) are at their swimming lessons with their dad. This is one of the sweet moments, when there’s a cake baking in the oven, the washing machine is humming, and there’s not really much to do but sit down and do some writing.
I wanted to get in touch with you to say a most glorious and big “thank you!” When I think about where my love of writing started it was in your classes in grades 11 and 12. I vividly remember we read Looking for Alibrandi and our assignment was to write a further chapter to the book. Oh my horror (but also deep pride and joy) when you read my chapter aloud to the class! This moment was one of the most validating moments I had as a teenager. It was a rare moment when someone I admired and cared for said to me, you are good at what you do and what you have done is important. So thank you for that.
Also thank you for involving me in your wedding to the extent that you asked me to baby-sit your cousin’s sons. As a mother now I see the great trust you and your cousin and his wife handed me. I remember being so impressed with the goody bag you had left me and I was paid $50! It was all too much at the time, especially considering after the boys had gone to bed I stayed up enjoying your excellent movie collection.
Unfortunately I didn’t go on to study Arts as I had dreamt and I chose a pathway of least resistance and did a science degree. Least resistance in that I didn’t have to listen to my dad telling me for three years that an “arts degree leads nowhere,” which is of course a fallacy. I struggled through those three years at university – a fish well out of water and swimming against a current that made no sense. It did however eventually help me work in an field – environmental conservation – that I very much enjoyed for a number of years. My strong points at work however have always been report writing, editing and communications – fancy that!
The last five years have seen me spending most of time growing my family. During this time my love of writing has been reignited. I have even started writing a young adult fiction novel as I think there is an enormous gap in the market when it comes to stories that I would like my girls to read one day. I’m not saying I’m a good writer yet, but I know with regular practice it will get better, and perhaps one day my dream to be a published author will come true.
Between you, me and the internet the dream is much bigger and includes being paid handsomely to sit in my house (which has sweeping views of the Snowy Mountains) to write books, stoke the fire, drink tea, feed the chooks, and drop the kids at school and pick them up without the fuss and worry of working in more conventional employment, as is the situation now. Doesn’t really sound like work does it?
Last time we were in touch you had two young children yourself. They would have to be finishing primary school now or even in high school. It would be magic to catch up some time over coffee or a cocktail even, and chat about podcasts (because getting to the movies is a bit of a stretch for me these days) and being working mums and politics and fashion.
Once again, I hope this letter hasn’t been weird or awkward, but more of the pleasing variety.