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117 pages, Hardcover
First published October 6, 2017
Do not ever imagine that anyone will wish--or be able--to schedule time off to take care of what you didn't bother to take care of yourself. No matter how much they love you: don't leave this burden to them.
This simple, beautiful book by Margareta Magnusson is full of wisdom, honesty, and humor about family life. She also gives practical advice about how to reduce the number and volume of your possessions when downsizing your housing or approaching the end of life. I know now to first start getting rid of clothes, household goods, and books, always leaving photographs and letters to last, because they suck up all the time.
The book inspired me to write to my adult children. Here's what I said:
I have just finished this simple, beautiful book by Margareta Magnusson. I recommend it highly for its wisdom, depth, and honesty, among many other fine attributes.
She was celebrating the letters, variously delivering thanks, news, and affection she had sent over the years, some of which had been saved and given back to her. She readily acknowledged that email and digital messaging has vastly increased communication and often made it richer, and said that she has even collected her digital correspondence onto thumb drives, which she eventually gives to the beloved child or grandchild as a celebratory record of their relationship. She did complain, however, that having trained her own children to always write literate thank you notes, her grandchildren very seldom thank her for her many gifts.I thought about this, and my own selfish intransigence as a child in avoiding and refusing to write thank you notes, despite my poor mom's best efforts. I have clear memories of the intensely boring content and format of such notes when I did write them. It gave the writing, a process that I normally love above all, a terrible taint of boredom and duty.
I was thinking about our much loved granddaughter, and kids yet to arrive, and how I would encourage them to write some notes (complete consistency is and should be impossible). People are all different, of course, but what drives me to communicate is the creative opportunity it provides. I love thinking about what I say, how I say it, how it can be packaged and delivered, and what I can do to make it aesthetically pleasing, pleasurable, and compelling to read. Indeed, this very letter makes me excited and optimistic. Communicating with family and friends is an important, beautiful opportunity for us all, not a chore or a duty if we do it right. In my opinion, the best way to teach children to swim in that river of artistry and love is to emphasize the many rewards of connection and creativity.
I don't mean that every message we send should be a great work of art, but merely that it should contain some special word or wink, a signal that we see our correspondent. After almost seventy years of keeping in touch with GW, we still find creative ways to insult each other, expand the other's understanding, quietly touch the other's heart when he needs it, and argue about the future prospects of his football club. And sometimes to provide comfort. So there are always smiles or laughs attached, and occasionally a dampness of eye.