I’m looking at a brown envelope addressed to me from my mother in Cornwall.

I don’t know how many hundreds of times I have seen my address written in that hand. 

She has always kept up with her correspondence, dating back to strict Edwardian parents. 

For more than fifty years, she has sent me letters, from my first school trip to wherever I have journeyed. 

And I have written back. 

Those threads of care, as strong as linen, sewing me in, keeping me safe. 

This envelope’s been used before, of course it has.

 She likes reusing paper, thread, margarine containers.

 Retrieved from its place beside her carefully wound-up string and a bottle of liquid gum, the aged paper is as soft as skin from long storage in her bureau. 

No one uses manilla anymore; that government cheap alternative to bleached wood white.

It was made from the left-over hemp rope used on sailing ships, the beaten fibres showing through on the envelope’s surface.

The thing that isn’t the same, is the writing. 

The capital ‘M’ of Mary, is written too carefully, as if she is leaning on my name. There is a tilt to the written lines, a hesitancy that doesn’t compute with the woman who rode her motorbike from London to Cornwall to buy a farm in 1950. 

There’s no town name at all. 

 She probably hasn’t got that down in the address book.

 It was too obvious for all her years of memory… unnecessary when I’ve lived in Aberdeen for more than thirty years. 

So here it is then, just my name, the house, and the postcode hanging too low down on the envelope. 

The address has taken on her stooped posture. 

The misshapen letters, the folds of her writing arm.

No wonder the stamp queen looks at me sideways. 

Published by marycane

A PhD student at the Elphinstone Institute Aberdeen Scotland. I am studying the experience of being a contemporary grandmother. In particular I am interested in how those grandmothers, whose family live far away, are passing on their family history.

One thought on “Manilla

  1. Ah manilla envelopes ……………. the memories. We received more mail in our letter box than most people I knew growing up in the 50’s and 60’s. My dad was a Methodist Minister and he wrote and received many letters. I don’t remember my mum getting much mail. My dads mail came in manilla envelopes; long ones, large document ones and standard size and were all addressed ( many typed to Rev ICE Ramage MA

    The MA always made me laugh. Yes the envelopes were recycled……my mum saved them up and had a supply in her handbag which she supplied to my sister and I with pencils in church on Sunday morning to draw and write on during our father’s sermon ! It was to keep us quiet and still. She said these envelopes were much quieter than sheets of paper. We called them Vanilla envelopes. I still prefer that name today. My grandsons don’t attend church and I’m sure don’t get to reuse vanilla envelopes.


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