On pages torn from the same style of notebook used for more than thirty years, my sister writes in curly longhand, the lines sloping right hand down. Folded hurriedly and stuffed secretly into envelopes, her carers promise to post them, and stamp them with a novelty sticker. Accumulating through the years, most are lost or destroyed. But I asked for some last year, and they were sent to me from the small outback town of the home for mentally ill, in a large prepaid post pack I sent to them.
Like some kind of incantation, the words and phrases repeat, conjuring her childhood, and by association, mine. Like children’s drawing come alive, her word pictures tell our story as she would like it to have been. We are in a garden, with hens and horse and ponies. We wear satins, velvets and chenilles, and eat marzipan and angelica.
Addressed to our grandfather, imploring him to make a film, and in the film, can it be like this, and this, and can Robert Stack play this part, etc.
For years her letters have been disappearing into the unknown.
Now I have a small collection, and they sadden me, for how her life could have been.
The Saddest Thing I Own is a 2005 commission of New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc., (aka Ether-Ore) for its Turbulence web site. It is supported by the Jerome Foundation in celebration of the Jerome Hill Centennial and in recognition of the valuable contributions of artists to society.