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Love Letters Sealed With a Kiss

Parents write missives to their young children to be opened far in the future

October 08, 2002|SAMANTHA CRITCHELL | ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK — Carly Button is almost 6 years old and learning to read. She has a lot of material waiting for her. Her parents, Diane and Mark Button, have been writing her letters since the day she was born.

Diane and Mark also have penned letters to their 4-year-old son, Jack, and 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Hannah, to be opened on all the big milestones of their lives, such as their high school and college graduations, their wedding days and their 50th birthdays.

"We tell our kids we love them dozens of times every day, but when you put it in the form of a letter, it becomes real and tangible," Mark explains.

Mark is the co-creator of the Koosh Ball toy, and Diane is a former restaurateur. They live in Hawaii.

The family's letter-writing tradition began moments after Diane gave birth to Carly.

At first Diane just saw a beautiful baby in Mark's arms. But then she fast-forwarded this image and saw the rest of her daughter's life--and the moment when she hopefully would have a child of her own. Diane grabbed a pen and started writing notes, sort of a journal, about the emotions that came with the first moments of motherhood.

She signed it "Love, Mom."

This note was the first of many to go in Carly's "letter box." Each member of the Button family, including Mark and Diane, now have these decorated boxes that hold letters from loved ones until they're opened at the appropriate moment.

"It makes life easier when her [Carly's] grandparents ask what they can get her for a gift. We say, 'Write a letter,' " Mark says.

The Buttons guide other would-be letter writers in their new book, "The Letter Box: A Story of Enduring Love" (Beyond Words Publishing). They offer practical tips such as topics to be addressed and even what types of ink last longer, but the couple also shares their love story and how, thanks to letters, their family bond is preserved on paper.

Letters, especially handwritten ones, give the sender an opportunity to present emotions and memories in a thoughtful way that is easy to receive, Mark explains. And for the sender, a letter is something that can always be cherished and brought out over and over.

"Every day we do so much together as a family ... and those are the memories we've built, but sometimes we forget the details. The letters that capture a memory can remind us just how special each day is. It's a forever gift," Diane says.

Letters mean even more in this e-mail age. "How great is it when you get a letter?" she asks.

And when he does get one, Mark says he puts it aside and reads it when he has time to savor it. When he writes a letter, he--a devoted computer user--uses pen and paper because it's more personal and intimate than using "one of 24 fonts."

It's easier to say some things on paper than in person, Mark explains, and it probably will become truer as their children get older and no longer will accept a kiss from their parents in front of their friends.

If you're trying to apologize to someone or break through to a teenager with whom you are having trouble communicating, a letter takes some of the volatility out of the equation, allowing sender and receiver to think about what is being said instead of blurting out comments that might be regretted later, Diane adds.

The first letter Carly is supposed to open is one earmarked for her eighth-grade graduation but, as she becomes aware of all the letters piling up, she's getting a little itchy to open them.

"She now wants to touch and feel the letters. We need to find some milestone that she can open a letter for soon," Mark says.

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