The scrap of litter making its way across my driveway in a light breeze didn’t seem any different than the usual detritus that falls out of curbside bins as the garbage trucks make their rounds. But it was.
Scribbled on a white, lined Post-it Note in blue ink was “I wouldn’t change a thing. I love you.”
I should’ve dropped it in a trash basket as the anonymous recipient had intended. But I brought it inside anyway. I couldn’t resist yielding to my imagination. Who had written it and what had prompted such a heart-warming gesture? Was the note hurriedly penned and left under a coffee cup, or maybe tucked under the windshield wiper before a distraught spouse left for an appointment? Maybe she had cried when she found it. The reassurance in the note was short but powerful. Why, then, would she throw it away? Did it have unintended consequences?
The handwriting seemed masculine. And only a man would write on a Post-it Note; surely a woman would have chosen an attractive card to tuck into an envelope, right? Yes, the writer was definitely a man. Was he trying to console a depressed wife, who confessed tearfully to self-doubt? I envisioned them on a couch, tenderly holding hands.
With the stress of a pandemic, lost jobs, and political division, we precariously walk a ridge that divides a stable world from that of the unknown. Who couldn’t use the assurance of a written note reminding that amid all of this turmoil, we’re loved unconditionally?
A few years ago I stood anxiously before a rack of anniversary cards and realized I, a writer, was relying on someone else to express my thoughts on a blissful marriage. So instead, I wrote my wife a love letter. I cried writing it; she cried reading it. I never got that from Hallmark.
No matter the skill, writing gives an author a chance to reflect and emote with a carefully chosen word or phrase — conversation doesn’t allow for strike-throughs and inserts. While cleaning out files recently, I stumbled on that letter. I never asked my wife why she kept it, but I’d like to think she wanted to read it again. You can’t do that with conversation.
“I wouldn’t change a thing. I love you.” Perfection.
Long before computers, artist Georgia O’Keeffe and photographer Alfred Stieglitz exchanged an impressive 5,000 letters during their 30-year romance. Few people today would make the effort to write just one. George H.W. Bush did, though. While stationed overseas during World War II, he wrote constantly to his wife, Barbara. One handwritten letter she saved in a scrapbook read: “I love you, precious, with all my heart and to know that you love me means my life.”
He didn’t have to say anything more. It was the late president’s version of “I wouldn’t change a thing. I love you.”
The author of the note on my discovered scrap of paper could have sent a text to his wife, but the uniformity of Franklin Gothic wouldn’t have connoted the emotion of a sweeping, cursive sentence. Each turn of the pen — an erratic loop, an undotted “I,” a double underline, speaks for a person as if he or she were there.
I shared my discarded note on Facebook and wrote of the imagined circumstances that could have prompted it. Within an hour I had my answer to the mystery.
“Tom, that was my husband, Sam. We are going to be married 50 years tomorrow and having a vow renewal,” a neighbor responded, explaining that as she read my Facebook post aloud to her husband, he confessed it was he who’d written those lines — he was practicing what he wanted to say. “I’m so happy you found this,” she wrote to me. It made her glad that I’d gotten this unexpected insight into how much her husband loved her.
Maybe it was karma that Sam’s scrap of paper stopped on my driveway seven houses away. It gave me a lift and a reason to evaluate what
really matters to me. Give me a pen and a piece of paper; we all will be just fine.
Tom Marquardt is a writer in Naples, Florida. Send comments to email@example.com. Tell your story. Email your 650-word essay on a relationship to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note: We do not respond to submissions we won’t pursue.