memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

Post-cards From China


One morning about a week before Christmas a curious letter landed on my desk. It was from China and the envelope itself had a battered look, opened and reopened, as if it had physically travelled that immense distance. It had my name on it, carefully printed in capital letters together with the address of the school – all the rest was in the Chinese script. I opened it and found a postcard and a thin sheet of paper:

Dear Mr. Thomas Milner, I hope your health is well and you are at peace with yourself. I would like to know all about your school and study there if I can afford it, and if I can achieve a visa to visit. Please send all informations(sic). I hope your mother and father are well and the rest of your family is well. Best regards, Lin Lee.

On the back of the card, a rather badly produced cityscape of Beijing, was written: A Merry Christmas for Mr. Thomas Milner and family from Lin Lee

So I went next door to the office and asked them to send back the usual information and add her name to the list of Christmas cards for me to sign. I didn’t think much more about it until, at the beginning of February, there arrived another postcard from her, thanking me for the Christmas card.

For a few years thereafter the pattern was repeated – a card before Christmas followed by another in early spring. Once she sent me a pack of six postcards of China. These were always accompanied by brief, careful, polite printed messages.

I developed a feeling for this forlorn reaching-out from the far side of the world to a complete stranger, presumably arbitrarily selected.

I wanted to confide in her, the way people do with strangers in bars.

I wanted to tell her of my life, of my school days, of my son’s homework note-book,

Of my notions and ideas,

Of my honeysuckle climbing up the wall in the little garden at the back of our new house, releasing its sweet fragance at dusk …

But I didn’t.

Sloth undid me and one year the postcards stopped coming.

Comments on: "Post-cards From China" (5)

  1. Thomas, I have been there. waited too long to reconnect with an old friend, only to find out he had passed away two days before. Thank you for sharing, these moments in time carve their impressions on our soul, and we remember them in our prayers.

    Be encouraged!


  2. Thank Stephen!


  3. Oh, this is bittersweet, the fragile connections here and there, hopeful but yet so tentative. But, even little glimmers of kindness bring us smiles and moments of joy. I’m sure you gave those to your correspondent, and that is why the correspondence continued as long as it did… ~ Lily


  4. Ana Guerreiro said:

    Olá Tom,
    Ao relêr esta sua note (e mesmo quando a li pela primeira vez no seu livro),lembro-me duma frase que é mais ou menos assim: “quando uma borboleta bate as suas asas, pode provocar um tsunami no outro lado do mundo”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: