When I was living near Boston, I found a gentle read at the library filled with references to my favorite city. “The Education of Harriet Hatfield” by May Sarton is a sweet story of an elderly woman who opens a small Boston bookshop when her lifelong companion dies. Being lesbian, she is subjected to suspicion and harassment but receives support from a new collection of unlikely friends. I was especially intrigued with a young couple whose age Harriet had long left behind, and since reading the book, I like to collect grandmothers when I can. I was so enamored with the book’s gentle story, I decided to write Miss Sarton and tell her. Without the internet, I only knew that she lived in Camden Maine so I addressed my fan letter “Miss May Sarton, Camden, Maine”.
Not long afterwards, I received a simple postcard from Miss Sarton but unfortunately, it was indecipherable – the handwriting was illegible, scrawled and shaky. I placed the card for safekeeping in my letter box along with other meaningful cards saved through the years.
On Valentine's Day last, I came across an essay written by May Sarton about the holiday. She never liked it until one year, near her death, when a secret campaign was begun. She found herself flooded with dozens of pretty valentines from old friends, great nieces and nephews, former agents and colleagues. She described how going to the mailbox turned into such a delightful adventure, how each card was more beautiful than the last. She fanned them out and admired them over and over, and then wrote, “I am a spoiled and greedy old valentine now.”
Recently a friend came to visit and with her eagle editorial eye, she efficiently transcribed Miss Sarton’s postcard for me:
Miss Sarton has been gone a while but her encouraging and dear response is as charmingly fresh as if it had been dropped into my mailbox yesterday morning. And there’s no living with me now as I find myself feeling rather spoiled and greedy. What can I write for YOU dear reader? Anybody?