Nutcracker in July- It’s not xmas without Martha

unfortunately, a lot of my favorite people in the world don’t live in St. Louis.

Thank you, unlimited text messaging, for allowing me to at least stay relatively in touch with some of these people. I had one of those, ‘how is life?’ conversations with my good friend Paul I knew while living in New Jersey. I have since deleted my outbox, so I can’t quote verbatim, but my guess is that my response was something regarding the end of the season with my ballet company (a week and one set of performances left!? How did this year go by so fast!?) and figuring out what I’m going to do with my summer.His response:

“When you said you were lining up work for the summer I immediately thought you were doing the nutcracker christmas in July style’.

Bless my lucky sugarplums, it hasn’t come to that yet.

The notion of staying in touch with people is easier for some than others. I don’t know if it’s my hatred of phones that I tend to not be so good at it myself. So for people like me, there’s always the ‘sum up your life’ xmas card- hopefully featuring lots of good news and a bad sweater-clad photo. I may hate phones, but I LOVE letters. And I’m a little bit of a hoarder when it comes to sentimental junk so this seemed like a good option for me as this past December came rushing onwards.

I have spent the majority of my life being incredibly needy for attention and it seems that as I get older, I must find ways to become increasingly crafty in my search for it. Curtain up on : Jess’ letter project 2010-11.

Basically, I sent out this document complete with a hand-written note and self-addresses and stamped envelope to about thirty of my favorite people- asking for a letter in return as a christmas gift TO ME!

Happy Holidays

“I know that I am lucky to be a live at all. I have chosen to write to you without knowing who you are. I have written everyday since I have been here. I trade bread for postage but have not yet received a response. To write a few words to me, I would appreciate it more than you know. With great hopes, sincerely I am….”

The text above is from ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ by Jonathan Safran Foer. In the book, a character finds an old letter and tries to determine the author by comparing the handwriting with that of her friends, family, and teachers whom she also asks to write letters. She receives a sixty-seven page letter from her Grandmother detailing the story of her life. Here is part of the letter: “When I was your age my Grandfather bought me a ruby bracelet. It was too big for me and would slide up and down my arm. It was almost a necklace. He told me later that he had asked the jeweler to make it that way. Its size was supposed to be a symbol of his love. More rubies, more love. But I could not wear it comfortably. I could not wear it at all. So here is the point of everything I am trying to say: If I were to give a bracelet to you now, I would measure your wrist twice.”

I am lucky to have been able to see many of my close friends this past year- friends now spread all over the country that I went to school with, danced with, worked, or lived with. With Christmas approaching, I have been thinking that what I would wish for is not necessarily big or extravagant, but the ability to feel close to the people who matter the most to me. What I am asking for this Christmas is an idea I had from the book- I am asking the people who have had the most effect on me for a letter. I would appreciate it more than you know. With great hopes, sincerely I am

Jess Ruhlin

I just this past week got my response from my best friend-the ever punctual Emily. (This best friend title is shared in equal parts by Katie/Laura, who was 3RD in getting hers back to me!- someone just moved up a little in the best friend step-ladder! just kidding) Emily’s note was written on post-its and included a random picture that she found in a library book of a fat man’s abdomen getting a cup of coffee. Hilarious. Did I mention that I love this girl?

Anyways- I thought it was so amazing to see what kind of paper people chose, who hand-wrote, who typed, who included pictures or collages or drawings or wrote them on the back of shopping lists or sent a three-page story. I think my Grandmother put the most effort into hers; she included a typed family tree, printed old photos, and little stories from my ancestors such as one Clara Skinner, a great great aunt or something- who was a servant to the Queen and greatly enjoyed sitting in the throne when not otherwise occupied by royalty (That kind of behavior explains a lot of me, I think).

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I guess some people put less stock into their past than I like to- I hate the idea of the wonderful people I’ve known passing in and out of my life as quickly as many tend to do. I guess I sent the letters out partially because should I ever lose touch with these people completely, I will have the letters to help me remember them and that maybe I meant something to them at one point too. It’s like ‘the notebook’ but composed of many little stories with lots of people and without the over-acting or any dumb kissing-in-the-rain scenes. Bleh.

I am still waiting on some of them. I also meant to sent one to my Interlochen roommate Michela, and to my college friend Tommy, but I must have gotten their addresses incorrect because they came back to me. I am thinking I will probably do it again next year and I think I will make cards featuring the ‘fat man getting coffee’ picture. And whoever sends the best picture from that bunch, I will probably use as my card-base the year after that. I can’t help but hold on to little traditions with people who are far away or busy or for whatever reason, greatly  loved, but harder and harder to keep in my life. Plus, it will be something to look forward to in December, and even out how much I dread another Nutcracker.

As my Grandmother says, “This is only part of your history”.- But to me, my friends are probably the best part.

6 thoughts on “Nutcracker in July- It’s not xmas without Martha

  1. Ahem, do I at least get best friend points for handwriting you a letter (that got to you 3rd) during my FINALS week? I think Emily should be bumped. I win.

    (I like your idea of setting this up as a tradition…and now that I know it’s a competition, watch out.)

  2. Fat man with coffee trumps all.
    I left that envelope sitting on the counter for 5 months because Bynum said he wanted to write you back. I guess that shows how reliable he is, and how much he cares about his position on the friendship ladder. Also, you can bump me down a few rungs if it will pacify that girl who requires two first names…


    Also, bump she-who-wil-not-be-named (aka she-of-the-one-first-name) down! It WILL pacify me. I WIN! Also, my two first names are representative of my awesomeness. One first name cannot fully express the greatness that is me, thus the second one.

    p.s. Why are we name attacking? “Bynum” seems like an easy target…but I have reined myself in here. One more extra point for me for self control!

  4. Pingback: Word Play « BODIES NEVER LIE

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