by Ali de Groot
“I wrote you one letter on each of your birthdays, and I decided to do that every year until you went off to college. The day you open this book will be the first time you’ve ever seen these letters.” —Joe Garrett
Imagine opening a book and finding your life unfold before you, chapter after chapter, from the day you were born. This is what happened when Joe’s daughter received his book Eighteen Letters: from a father to his daughter. These were real letters written to her on each birthday, starting in 1992. Chapter one covers her first year, chapter two, her second year, and so on, until the age of eighteen. There’s a little of everything in these letters. Besides describing her favorite foods, animals, and friends, Joe delved into politics, philosophy, literature, history, current events, etiquette, and healthy doses of advice:
· Sing in the shower or when you’re driving in your car.
· Go to the circus at least once a year.
· Be kind to people.
· Avoid grouchy people.
· When getting on a bus, say hello; when leaving, say thank you.
· Pay all your bills on time.
· Remember every compliment you receive; forget every insult.
The surprising thing is that Joe never gave the letters to his daughter at the time he wrote them. He would throw them in a drawer and basically forget about them. It was when she was a senior in high school that Joe contacted me at Modern Memoirs and asked how to create a lasting book of the letters. We spent several months on the project—proofreading the retyped letters to make sure they all read the way the originals did, designing a fitting interior of the book, adding family photos, and designing the cover and dustjacket—all done the way Joe wanted. By the time his daughter was packing up her belongings and heading off to college, Joe had a beautiful hardcover book to slip into her hands. On the front cover is a picture of a young father with toddler daughter gripped in his arms. On the back cover, he is working hard to carry his preteen daughter on his shoulders.
We carry our children until they learn to fly. And if we can give them our memories, our thoughts, our hearts, we are all the better for it.