In the spring of 2017, I came home one afternoon to find a large manila envelope sticking out of my letterbox in the front door. It was from my ‘big brother’ Bob, the eldest son of the host family I had lived with when I was a 17-year-old exchange student in Nuneaton, Warwickshire in 1973. We had remained friends and ‘family’ through the intervening years – I was always “sis” and he was always “bro.”
The envelope contained a small sketchbook I had used back then, when I was a student in the Lower 6th Form. His mother, who had recently passed away, had saved it all those years and Bob found it while going through her home after her death. He returned it to me as he knew I was an artist and thought it would probably bring me a good laugh and renew fond memories.
Before I came to the UK in 1973, I had never travelled more than a few hundred miles from my childhood home in a rural small town in the eastern USA. Never flown on an airplane. Never been further west than Ohio. My world was very small then and coming to Nuneaton was my very first big adventure.
So, when I opened that envelope all those years of life later, I was astonished to find the drawing inside.
I know this place. I have been there in the physical world and in dreams. I have seen the face of that cloaked figure over and over again. I have painted it and that desert, those mountains, that distant light in many iterations. It calls to me. It seems that it always has.
I had received a message from my 17-year-old self, delivered 44 years after it was sent? If ever I required evidence of “connection,” I had received it.
I am now 66. I write this a few days after my beloved “big brother” Bob has died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack. His heart was joyful, generous, full of love and kindness. I will miss my very special messenger.