The letter I never wrote…(to Judith Kerr)

February 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

Dear Mrs. Kerr*,

I’ve been planning on writing this letter for such a long time, that I no longer know how to begin; my worst nightmare is that this beginning won’t ever be as good, stylish and compelling as the first one I thought of – and wrote down somewhere – when I first had the idea of both, writing you a letter and sending it to your son’s agent, so it would somehow get to you. All I can aspire to, with the present one is, I believe, a reasonably “good” letter, if only vaguely mimicking all the original thoughts, ideas, questions and remarks I had for the very first draft I scribbled. Now, realizing and accepting such a fact, I might be able to at least feel less pressured though equally compelled to address you, as I did months -if not years- ago. Here we go then…

The reason I am writing this, is actually reasonS, for there are more than one. First and foremost (and yes, I recognize it is an incredibly selfish reason), I am challenging, pushing myself to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time; setting aside all the “ifs” and just embarking on it without further thought. Secondly, it is still, after much procrastination, my wildest dream that you would in fact read this letter and feel, if not encouraged, touched or honored, at least acknowledged. In third place, I – yet again, selfishly – feel the need to share some of myself, and my journey through life accompanied by your books, with you . For what purpose? I honestly do not know; just have the need.

Perhaps I should start by saying it is your 3 book series When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, The Other Way Round, and A Small Person Far Away ^, the one which captivated my heart and engaged my mind, imagination and emotions, even as a young adult, having read the 3rd book of the series for the first time, in my early twenties, as I had no idea of its existence, before then. Actually, I got to know you thanks to The Other Way Round/ Bombs On Aunt Dainty, then moving on to …Pink Rabbit, and finally A Small Person… It was quite an interesting reading order and, nevertheless I have no regrets whatsoever; Not following the “right” chronological order of the books, finding out about some details sooner or later than I should have, and filling gaps on my own, before reading the missing books, may have been one of the “wildest” most fulfilling things I’ve ever dared to do, but… back to what I really want to share…

I spent many a night reading and re-reading chapters from The Other Way Round, especially during many a time of turmoil in my own life; while not exactly under the stress and uncertainty war brings along, I still somehow felt trapped – as I think Anna did in many an occasion – in the middle of choices, expectations, feelings, barely developed and unfulfilled dreams, and my own growth process; both physical and emotional. Then, it was throughout a span of roughly 10 years (starting when I was 11, 12 perhaps) involving more than a few sleepless nights, that I turned to Anna and her view of the world, not only for the solace reading itself offers, but also advice… from the character herself! I became an archeologist, if you will, at least inasmuch as I was “discovering” information as I read, and then interpreting it, seeking to give it sense, purpose, logic, usefulness in the real world of the “today” I was living in. That may have been naive, misguided, plain silly! However, it somehow, to some extent, worked. I found a great companion in Anna, and all thank you to your pen, filled with brilliant narration; for that I am immensely grateful. Whether you intended to say what I understood or something different, whether I just read what I wanted to read, between the lines, or simply fell prey of such a powerful, unpretentious yet deep “young narrative” of a young Anna, I will continue to be grateful… regardless.

Now, not only were your books a great self-discovery tool, (despite my being a little out of target age when I read them) but also reflected – if that’s the word I’m looking for – some actual accounts/events in my own life, which made me feel even more connected to you; at least to what you had to say. Some scenes happened to me almost as described in The Other Way Round, for instance the episode where Anna sees her dad crying, as a result of the emotions that overwhelm him as he listens a music piece at a concert they attend together, due to the fact that she is infatuated with her art professor and goes there only to see him. (But… what am I doing?! I’m telling the story to the storyteller!) Even though I had no art professor I was infatuated with (I did have a very good-looking, charismatic one, though), I do have a father, and I did see him cry after a musical piece played at a concert we went together to, having gotten to our seats after climbing what seemed a million stairs! The resemblance to the account in the book was too big, so I could not help but grin and remember it, and then look for the page when I got home.

Thus, as I grew from teenager to young adult, while knitting together the many threads which now constitute who I am – and who I am becoming – into the fabric of my every day, I intertwined quite a few Anna threads as well, always thinking that, one day, I would let you know I’d done so; that one day I would be able to thank you and ask you “please, keep writing, for all the future children, who will become adults, partially – even if unconsciously – guided by your penning hand”. I don’t know if you still write, I don’t know if you would want you, and I certainly don’t know if you will even read all the nonsense I am typing right now, but I had to type all this anyway. I am wondering if typing this letter is of any use, especially when I have ended talking so much about myself and addressing you so little (it almost feels like therapy, you being the silent, passive therapist, unfortunately). In any case, and whatever the fate of this letter ends up being, I would like you to know and remember you have been a great influence in the life of a then girl, now woman, called Alejandra, who read your stories in a very white, and very small room, somewhere in Mexico City, during many a sleepless night.

I will stop writing here, as the previous sentence may be the best ending I can formulate (plus I have been beyond repetitive throughout this text). I won’t even edit and re-edit this letter, so there will it go… out into the virtual world, at the risk of being not nearly as good, not nearly as impactful, or clear or true to what I initially wanted. I am satisfied now, for I have told you, Judith Kerr, the big part you have played in my life; for I have finally penned THAT letter I postponed writing for such a long time.

Many regards, and may God keep your heart,

– Alex

* You can visit this link, in order to know more about Mrs. Kerr. All information is provided by her publisher and I neither own rights, nor am in any way associated to it.

^ I did not know of the existence of all other Judith Kerr’s books; not until recently, as they are not popular – perhaps not even known – in my country of origin, Mexico.

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