When I was a teenager, an old lady named Valma used to write me the longest letters. Easily 20 pages or more, in scrawling cursive on foolscap paper.
Valma and her husband Bill lived in a two-room hut on a little dirt road called Saddler’s Lane, and I came to know them because I would ride by their place on my way to a creek at the bottom of the valley. When she heard the clop-clop of my horse’s hooves, Valma would rush towards me to say hello: she got around with a funny swinging motion on two crutches, because her legs didn’t work. We’d stand and chat at her old farm gate while my horse grazed nearby.
Valma would never accept my invitations to come tea at our place. She said she was too embarrassed to ever return the hospitality because her house had no floor, just beaten earth, and no water.
Sometimes I would bring her gifts of fruit from our trees, or a slice my mother had made, and hand them to her over the farm gate. After we moved away and I couldn’t ride past any more, Valma and I became irregular pen pals for many years, up until she died.
Then a few months ago my parents brought some papers to my place, and Valma’s letters were among them. All those memories of our old friendship came flooding back…