The Most Iconic Love Letter to Be Written — and Why

Wearing a brown skirt and standing in her tidy living room, Gilda Hoppredt sips coffee and regales listeners with dozens of stories of owning a beautiful Victorian house, and how the help it afforded her and her family was instrumental in ensuring the continued longevity of her 72-year marriage. “My mother is walking up and down the stairs with a cane,” she says. “I know about real estate — it can be boring,” she says. “But our house here — it felt like a safe harbor, a place to come and enjoy the last years of our lives.”

“You love that house, but should you write a love letter?”

To hear how she and her friends decided to write each other — and their kids — appreciative notes, watch the video above.

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In my book “When You Got This House,” I write a lovingly frank essay about deciding when to write a love letter — and about the difficult decisions I made along the way. The most iconic love letter was written in 1774 by Anne Boleyn, who was married to Henry VIII, and who survived him only until her execution 15 years later. Her letter, written in exactly 34 lines, described, in understated language, the vast variety of emotions and experiences that she shared with her husband (to include unsung heroes, crazies, wackos, prudes, hooligans, and families). (Despite all the negative domestic depictions of Anne Boleyn — namely, her fiery temper and peculiar behavior that created an unspeakable chaos in her household — it actually seems pretty romantic. This is because, in Anne’s letter, she wrote about the beauty of her husband, and the wonders of their marriage as a whole.)

Consider this a Valentine, a message to friends and loved ones — and an excuse to read more about Anne Boleyn’s elegant use of words.

In our humble tradition, we thought about when and why to make a love letter.

My friend Gaya Boman and I are a sister-and-sisterhood of house listers who own our own place in New York. Our house is exactly what our “affluent urbanite parents want” when they leave us the keys to “a mansion in the woods,” as they describe it. We live in an intergenerational home, and Gaya and I love to share with other people some of the good life lessons we’ve learned from our parents, as well as from our own experiences with older people. Gaya and I have a bunch of gems in our house that we share as dulcet reports on decades of actual experience with the intermingling of generations: “My father celebrated his 100th birthday when he was 88. I knew that he had a long way to go; but still — he had lived a full life!” We’ve also mentioned stories from the day our daughter gave us a new electric toothbrush from Finland (“Yes, in Finland. I never thought that a toothbrush could be so touching and philosophical. I love you so much for teaching me that it isn’t just traditional brushing that counts for such a long time”). Gaya and I have also sent off our other children all these years: “I hope to be an amazing grandmother. I’ll do my best to remember all the things you taught me.”

You may think we’re playing games, weeding through our reflection to make things somewhat blander for our children. But we’re not — we’re reflecting on the intricacies of the nature of human friendship, whether we’re married or friends; whether we’re married or co-parents. In part it’s an opportunity to celebrate how much we’ve been lucky, how much we’ve loved and been loved. We think it’s a metaphor. We have lived in our house for a few decades, our parents have added to it, and our daughter and son have moved back home for long periods, and we’ve learned many little things along the way. These little things — we hope — also teach us something: how to stay true to ourselves, how to be positive, how to love even if we feel like crying.

I love that house!

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