Sunday, April 2, 2023

10,000 Letters And Counting

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published April 3, 2023] ©2023

I am having a hard time believing that, God willing and the creek don’t rise (well any more than it has already risen in this incredibly wet winter), I will be posting my 500th “Let Inga Tell You” column in a few months 

Even my sons are a tad puzzled as to what I’ve found to write about over the last 14 years given that, as they put it, “you have no life.”

Of course, among the topics I’ve often written about is them.  Especially my older son Rory who has given me several life times of material. Most recently, I detailed the term paper he wrote about me for his college Abnormal Psychology class in his quest to understand how I was quite possibly the worst mother in the history of the world.

But this is the thing about writing: (almost) everything is fodder. 

Mostly I like to write about topics that I think will resonate with La Jolla readers.  I think I’ve lived here long enough to have a pretty good pulse on the community.  And while writing may not put much food in my refrigerator, it definitely feeds my soul.

People have asked me if I ever have writer’s block. (They might be the same people who wish I’d develop writer’s block.) 

But honestly, never. 

I should mention that my sum total formal writing training was freshman composition in college, the only C of my college career.  The professor hated everything I wrote, gracing the top of every composition with “Ha ha.  You think you’re so funny.  C+” 

Fortunately, I had a mother who encouraged my writing from the time I could hold a pencil.  She always had nothing but praise for the (godawful) little stories and poems I wrote.  She never ever corrected any grammar or spelling.  As she said later, she just wanted me to feel the joy of writing.  Someone else could correct the grammar and spelling later. (They did.)

In a way to subtly encourage me, however, she would ask to buy the more promising stuff for a nickel or dime.  When she died, I found a whole file folder of these Early Ingas.  If this was the best stuff, she obviously had a vision only a mother could have. 

One possible advantage for my so-called writing career was that when I was growing up, phone calls were prohibitively expensive and there was no internet.  So if you wanted to communicate with people, it was by letter. 

I wrote – no kidding – thousands of letters.  In fact, it was how Olof and I kept in touch after we returned from our (high school) senior year abroad in Brazil which is how we met. Olof and I knew even after the first three weeks in Brazil as 17-year-olds that we would be lifelong friends.  He – somewhat surprising for a (future) Air Force pilot and then an engineer – was an avid letter writer too.

Given that there were no correctible apparati in Olof’s and my communication years, we just wrote on manual (later electric) typewriters or even yellow lined paper. 

First draft was the last.  No editing. We both love story telling. We just wrote about whatever happened to be going on in our lives at the moment, relishing regaling the other with detailed sagas about the most mundane of events. All these years later, the “mundane events” columns are my favorite ones to write. 

When I say “mundane,” I’m really not kidding.  Far too few of our letters still exist (we both moved a lot). But I still wish I had a copy of the missive I wrote Olof about my first husband and I deciding to save $125 by acid washing our kidney-shaped pool ourselves, sliding around in make-shift attire (rubber raincoats, rubber boots, old jeans) on the sloping sides of that pool with sloshing buckets of acid.  OK, so the second degree burns weren’t that funny.

Still, it may have been the finest thing I’ve ever written. 

So that’s the long answer to why I’ve never had writer’s block.  I just pretend each column is a letter to someone, minus the “dear so-and-so” line. 

And now, all those decades of letter writing have segued into 14 years of wantonly publishing often-ill-considered personal stories in my local paper. 

Of course, certain themes (other than my older son) have been recurring over the last 14 years of this column, particularly my total frustration with technology.  Olof, the neighbors, and parking in La Jolla have had plenty of play too.  What the other 450 have been about, I’m trying to remember.  But there are four 3-inch binders of Inga columns on the shelf behind me, so I should take a look sometime. 

When my book came out, I was tempted to send a copy to my Freshman Composition professor. But then I realized that this would only have vindicated his position.  “Thank GOD I did not encourage that woman!”  It still would have been a C+.

Or lower.



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