Terry Marotta: The real treasures are the words we say

Terry Marotta

People have written me such great letters over the years. One I could never forget came from the person who wrote to say she laughed so hard reading one of my columns that the coffee she was drinking shot out her nose and across the room.

But even better messages than that are the ones that have heart.

Six years ago I received a reader letter that began like this:

“Why am I writing to Terry Marotta? It must be because of this sentence: ‘Wasn’t I once a person who refinished AND reupholstered all her furniture? Now I look at that pound of raw chicken and think ‘Who could I PAY to turn this into dinner?’’

“It’s just a sentence from a newspaper clip saved among many in my desk. But the column it was from struck a chord for 86-year-old Me in my Old Folks Home. I think we were in a writing group years ago. I used to come with Charity Wetzler who died early last year. We met in someone's apartment on Whitney Avenue. Was that you?”

Well no, it wasn’t. But I found this letter so wonderfully personal I could never throw it out, even after answering it.

And in it she saved the best part for last:

“Speaking of change being the essence of our lives here, getting old has been and remains a great education - and NOT an entirely negative one!”

She closed by sending me best wishes and adding an original sketch of a person’s nose in profile with two legs and two sneakered feet emerging from the nostrils. The wry caption: “Running nose.”

I came upon this note just yesterday and it was all I could do not to drop everything and search for its author, who would be 91 or even 92 by now.

Maybe I will do that: Just find her somehow. Just reach out.

I reached out immediately to a new friend who wrote me last January.

She was referring to a column I had done about the traces of former inhabitants we sometimes come upon in our houses.

“Your subject on Friday about finding unexpected treasures in the houses you have lived in reminded me of the inscription my husband wrote when he built an addition onto our former house,” her letter began.

“Before he had installed the inside wall paneling, he wrote on the bare wood wall: ‘Built by (her husband’s name) on (the date) for the comfort of his wife.’

“I liked that inscription, and I anticipated some future owner replacing the paneling and seeing it, sort of like something an old pioneer might have written.”

I know I would have loved to come upon such an inscription, courtly as it is.

When I got back to her to say how touching I found her note and to ask if I might share it, she wrote again, sending more words, also well worth saving and passing on.

She said, “I sent this story to the paper and included in it mention of the inscription I have passed on to you.

“You are welcome to use it for it must have been at least 40 years ago that it appeared in the newspaper and now my husband is deceased, and I am an old person of 84 blessed with wonderful memories of a long and happy life.”

I have read these words and the ones above again and again, written as they were by two people who know – just know in their hearts - that at every stage of life we are meant to bless this life and call it good.

Write to Terry at terrymarotta@verizon.net, at P.O. Box 270, Winchester, MA 01890, or at www.terrymarotta.worpdress.com, her blog with its fresh daily supply of stories and photos.