My dad's mother, my Savta, lived in Israel. I didn't see her nearly as often as she wished, but we were in regular contact. We didn't have skype then, or email. We wrote letters to each other. I still remember what her shaky handwriting looked like and the feel of the thin blue airmail paper she always wrote on.
My Savta was a seamstress so she made us lots of clothing. When we were younger, she made us sweaters, skirts and dresses. As we got older, she made us costumes with long trails of fabric hanging from the waistline. We kept all of her clothing in a box. My mother held on to the box and passed it to me when I had children. For Thanksgiving this year, my 5-year old wore an orange sweater that my Savta knit for me when I was five. There's still a little tag on it with my name in her shaky hand writing.
But every time Savta sent us one of her packages, we had to thank her. I joke that there were 3 rules in our house growing up: Empty the dishwasher, clean your room, and write your thank you cards. That's what happens when your mom is an English teacher.
Writing to Savta was hard because she could barely understand English, or at least not teenage American slang. So we had to write to her with extra thoughtfulness. We had to use words that she could look up in a dictionary ("cool" was not one of those words). When I was a kid, that was annoying. The thank-you card writing process to Savta was stressful, if we're being honest. My Dad was so worried she wouldn't understand us that he over-edited what we wrote. We had too much homework to do and TV we'd rather watch. Stamped and sealed we'd drop our letters in the mailbox and feel relieved we were done. They'd sail off across an ocean and we'd never think of them again.
Years later I visited Savta in her small apartment in Tel-Aviv. One day she pulled out a box. In the box was every thank you card I had ever written her. She saved them all. She re-read them when she missed us. They were her treasures.
When you make or write something for someone, it comes from your heart. Yours to theirs. Theirs to yours.
Below are some watercolor cards I illustrated to help you share your heart with someone special. Start by saying thank you. Who's most likely to save it in a box forever?
These are the cards I would have loved as a kid…