Saturday, May 20, 2006

A LETTER TO NIKO

As a young person, writing and receiving letters via snail mail was how I stayed connected to friends and family who lived far away. When I heard the mailman drop letters into the slot, I'd leap down the basement stairs to see what paper treasures had come my way. I owe special thanks to mentors, grandmas, and favorite camp counselors and bunkmates for keeping in touch.

Since my nephew, Niko (person on the right), and I have always lived far apart, I've written books and letters to stay in touch and to communicate what life is like here in New York. The first book I made for him was called Niko, You Are Loved. In it, I used text and photographs to document the love and delight that friends and family felt when we first got to hold Niko in our arms.

The second book I make for Niko was about life in New York City. First, I asked Niko to send me a list of questions about NYC. Based on those questions, I went around Manhattan taking photographs of everything from fountains to taxicabs. Next, I photocopied and enlarged the pictures, added text, laminated the front and back covers, spiral bound everything, and mailed the final result to him.

Lately, I've focused more on writing letters to my nephew. Here's a recent one:

April 21, 2006

Dear Niko,

I am having breakfast in my favorite café in my neighborhood. They are playing a Jack Johnson CD, which makes me think of you because I remember listening to Jack J. for the first time when I was riding in a car with you in San Diego.

What I like about this café is the homemade cooking, the cozy atmosphere and the friendly waiters. They call their customers things like “Honey” and “Sugar.”

Here is what I see around me:

1. People talking happily while they eat their breakfast together
2. A Heinz Ketchup bottle
3. Four different cakes protected by clear glass cake covers
4. Three chalkboards with the menu written in white, blue, pink, and green chalk
5. Two bumpy glass salt and pepper shakers with metal lids
6. A brown empty chair with a piece of wood chipped off of the leg
7. A skinny fridge filled with soda, water, and a cake
8. Red milk cartons that say “Marcus Half and Half”
(That’s the first time I saw the brand “Marcus”)

What do you see in front of you right now? When you feel like it, jot a few things down or draw what you see and send it back to me in the envelope I sent to you.

You are good.
You are smart.
You are powerful.

I love you!

Aunt Eleanor
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