While driving around with my son in the car, I often tune into a classic rock station and give him lessons on the history of Rock-n-Roll. I tell him it is important that he is able to recognize certain bands and that he understand their unique contribution to the evolution of rock. I have taught him to identify the sound of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zepelin, and The Ramones to name a few, but his favorite is Queen. It is pretty obvious why a little kid would like Queen. I like Queen. But I think I might have influenced his taste by letting him watch a YouTube video of “Fat Bottom Girls.” It was just a photo of a bunch of nude women on bikes viewed from the backside, their butt muscles alternately clenched to the beat of the music. It really is entertaining if you wish to check it out, but I digress.
We were listening to Queen in the car one day when my son was about five years old when he asked me about the singer and asked if he wrote the music. Then he asked with complete sincerity, “Mom, when we get home, will you help me write a letter to Freddie Mercury? I want to thank him for writing these songs. I want to tell him how much I like his music.”
It broke my heart to have to tell him that Freddie Mercury was dead, but I was really touched by the sincerity of his request. This was an organic fan letter from someone who has never heard the term “fan.” It came from love and appreciation and it got me thinking about that type of gratitude.
I thought about a song by The Descendants called “Thank You” where they sing, “I won’t say your name, but you know who you are, I’ll never be the same again, thank you for playing the way you play.” I thought about certain authors like Keroac and Bukowski who wrote about friends reading their writing and saying “Man, that makes me want to write.” I thought about several artists, musicians, writers, architects, and even teachers that have inspired me. And I felt inspired to thank them.
I have been the recipient of such letters, but they need to ring true to have any impact. During “Teacher Appreciation Week” I received stacks of letters from students who were told by their Language Arts teachers to pick a favorite and write one. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate being picked and recognize that letter writing is not everyone’s forte, but they mostly sounded like they followed a format “I really like the way you blah, blah blah,” or “You are my favorite teacher because blah, blah, blah.” If I ran across one that was unique, I never forgot it.
One such letter came from Danielle, a girl who was so quiet in class that I didn’t even know I had a strong rapport with her. Danielle wrote, “You made me appreciate the desert. I always thought the desert was just an ugly, dry place, void of life. You helped me see the life that is adapted to live there and now I see the desert as a beautiful place.” Yep. Nailed it. And I love the desert too, in case that isn’t obvious.
I feel inspired to write some fan mail. I’m going to send Konrad Wertz a letter telling him how much I love his fiddle playing. I’m going to be specific enough to stand out in case he gets a lot of fan mail, but I suspect he is too obscure. I’m going to private message my friend David that he is the wittiest guy on Facebook even though the competition is fierce. I’m going to reiterate to my mom that she did some things right before her Alzheimer’s gets worse. I’m going to tell my son he inspires me and he has one of the kindest hearts I have ever known, just because it is true.