Monday, September 07, 2015

Love Letters

I got a card in the mail from my mom the other day with a handwritten message that said,
Here it is. 
I enjoyed it and you will love it.
 Inside was this neatly folded full page newspaper article from the Los Angeles Times.
Across the top of the page, she had also written: ROBIN READ THIS. YOU WILL LOVE IT. It was a review of two new books about Lawrence Ferlinghetti, City Lights Books and the Beat Movement of San Francisco in the 1950s. Yes, my mom knows me, and she was absolutely right I loved reading the article. I definitely want to get these books.

When I spoke to my mom on the phone she told me that she also loved the photo of Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg. I agreed, it is such a great photo. It reminded me of the last time I saw Ferlinghetti. I was working at UC Santa Cruz in the late 1990s and was walking into the campus library when I saw an older man with someone walking out. When we walked past each other, I noticed that the older man looked very familiar to me. I thought he reminded me so much of Ferlinghetti, I knew I had to turn around and run back to ask him, so I did. I said, "Are you Lawrence Ferlinghetti?" He smiled and said, "Yes, I am." I said, "I met you years and years ago at the Kerouac Conference in Boulder, Co. I was the volunteer co-ordinator." His eyes twinkled and he replied, "Oh that was a time, that was quite a time, wasn't it?" Yes, it was.

I told my mom the story. She loved it. I have to say that the best part of getting this card and article in the mail is what it means to me to know that my mom sent it. My mom is going to be 90 years old on September 25, and she still reads the newspaper everyday. She read this book review and thought, Robin needs to see this. My gratitude and love know no bounds.


  1. It still surprises me, as it did when I first became aware of these people, how neat and normal they all look. Great to hear that your mother is still so alert and sharp; my own dear mother is, I'm afraid, slowly sinking into an abyss of forgetfulness and confusion.

  2. Wonderful that you saw Ferlinghetti again at UC Santa Cruz in the 1990s.

    Please thank your mom for me for the book review. I was delighted that I could embiggen it and read it.

    My gratitude and love, too, for my mother who was fond of
    Ferlinghetti and sent me an article about him that I still have. I know exactly where it is.

    So few letters are sent in the mail anymore. A few days ago I received a long letter from a friend who is among the few people I know who sends letters in the mail. I'd like to see a return of letter writing. Letters were a major part of my life before email and blogging.

    Interesting what the article said,

    "A candid round of letters between the two underscores how letters give space to explore a difficult topic and time to absorb and respond."

  3. John-- It is interesting how they ushered in the "beatnik" movement and even the "hippies" and yet blended in rather well with their times. My mom is starting to decline a bit. It is the absolute heartbreak of aging children to witness.

    am-- I was so happy to have run into Ferlinghetti back then, and I was really glad this article triggered my memory. I love knowing that your mom sent you a letter about Ferlinghetti. What a wonderful coincidence. I would love to know what that article was about. I have started writing letters and cards again. I send my mom articles in the mail too. Just the other day I printed out an op-ed by Oliver Sacks that he wrote shortly before he died and mailed it to her.

    Rain-- Thank you.

    NCmountainwoman-- Thank you.

  4. Wow, that was special in two ways. The article about people you have met for sure but mostly having your Mother know this and realize it would be important to you, making sure you read it. Also that it was the actual newspaper article that can be enjoyed anytime. Snail mail has some real pluses.

  5. Arkansas Patti-- Yes, that's what I thought too. Special in two ways. I love that my mom knows what I love. It was quite a moment for us. And a big yes to snail mail!

    kathy a-- I put the article in a frame and plan to hang it. I love my mom's writing on the top, it's part of the art for me!

  6. Great story! I just saw the docu. HOWL about the obsenity trial...very interesting. Your Mom is a love!

  7. Very cool Robin.

    When I was a freshman in college 40 some years ago a fellow in the dorm had a copy of Dharma Bums. I read it and it was a life changing event, and also how I found this blog. I've been so attached to the 50s scene in SF ever since.

    My oldest son ended up living in Berkeley (far from our family homestead) and whenever I visit I try to make a side trip to the North Beach area.

    Best, and glad you have a new home.

  8. Robin, I agee it is so special that your mom really knows you--not just as a daughter, but as a person/personality. Of course, she'll always love you as her child, but it's great that she can embrace the entire being that you are. Lucky you. :-)

  9. MandT-- You remind me that I wanted to see that documentary. I'll have to look around on Netflix for it. Yes, my mom is a love. Truly.

    def59485-- My first introduction to the beat writers was when I read A Coney Island of the Mind by Ferlinghetti in the late mid-60s when I was in high school. It made me want to read the other beat writers. My first husband was a big Kerouac fan, and we went to Kerouac's grave together in mid 70s. We moved to Boulder in 1982 and while I waited around to get in-state status for college tuition, I volunteered at Naropa Institute. It was the year they were putting together the Kerouac Conference. I got to work pretty closely with Allen Ginsberg. I did an "apprenticeship" with him, and I filed his personal papers ("faded yellow paper clippings" he called them) at his house. He was a lovely man. Part of my job was to assign volunteers to visiting conference participants, who would pick them up at the airport, schlep the around, etc. I chose Abbie Hoffman. It really was quite a time. I love knowing that your son is in Berkeley and that you come to California for visits. Thank you for stopping by, always love hearing from you.

    lindaj-- Yes! My mother knows me as a person and not just as her daughter. You articulated what I feel. It's quite a thing to have her know me that way. It is like our relationship has evolved into something very special. I appreciate it with all my heart.

  10. I love this post, Robin. Your mom is a peach. I love hearing your stories about your encounters with the Beat poets. So very cool.

  11. I love this post - for many reasons. My mom also clips newspaper articles or picks up books for me - but saves them for my twice yearly visits on my way to and from Arizona. She too knows what I would like to see. It's nice.

  12. Tara-- Thank you! Isn't it funny that Ferlinghetti was at UC Santa Cruz? I can't remember why. Maybe they had Ginsberg's papers for a while. Mmmm?

    bev-- How wonderful that your mom really knows you too. We become more than daughters, or daughters with dimensionality.

  13. What a great story all around, Robin Andrea. My Mom used to send me articles from the Cleveland, Ohio newspaper (where I grew up) about natural history in northeast Ohio. She knew I appreciated receiving the articles; she "knew" me, too.

  14. Scott-- I love knowing that your mom knew you too. it's a lovely thing when our parents recognize us in other ways. As I typed this just now, I remembered that I took my parents to hear Gary Snyder read in Boulder in the early 80s. They loved it.

  15. This is a wonderful post, Robin, in lots of ways. I love that you met him- he was a literary hero for me back in the day. And the best part is getting the note and article from your mom- I love it.

  16. amarkonmywall-- I framed the article and plan to hang it next to a photo we have of Abbie Hoffman, Timothy Leary, Gregory Corso, and Johanna Lawrenson from the Kerouac Conference. It was quite a time! I'll always be glad I came of age when I did.