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Dear Mom and Dad
Paul Corrigan

22 July 2001

Like every weekday, I checked our mailbox as soon as I arrived home from work. Our kids are away at camp and finding a letter or card from them is the best part of my day. Our daughter, who appears to miss us as much as we miss her, writes to her mom and dad often. Her letters speak to thoughts and feelings, and often detail the day's events. This is the second summer our nine-year-old son has been away at camp. His letters are a bit more cryptic. We received this gem last week.

Dear Mom and Dad,

X's and O's


I am in big trouble. Please don't be mad at me. If you are mad at me please forgive me.


In addition to the words he drew three faces. The first face was the traditional smiling face with the corners of the mouth turned up. In the second face, the mouth was depicted with a straight line. The third face had tears flowing from the eyes and the mouth turned down. He circled the sad face.

To say that my wife and I had different reactions to Griff's correspondence would be an understatement.

To me, this letter was a masterpiece. He was using both words and symbols to convey his message. The letter was well thought out and it was grammatically correct. I dismissed the "big trouble" message, assuming the camp would have called us if Griffin did anything really wrong. I looked at the faces and thought to myself that my son might develop the graphic skills to be a political cartoonist. With pride, I pinned the letter to our refrigerator.

My wife came home after me. As we made dinner together I smiled and told her to read Griffin's letter. She immediately stopped what she was doing and went to find the letter. I watched her as she read. Her face betrayed her emotions.

"Do you think he's okay", she asked, looking like a train of horrors were racing though her thoughts. "Should we call the camp? Is my Griffy in trouble? Should we bring him home?"

The questions were coming too fast for me to answer. When my wife paused, I did my best to comfort her with my interpretation of the letter. She looked at me as if I were from another planet.

I explained to my wife that everything is relative. I tried comparing this letter to some of the letters Griffin had sent to us in the past. Last year, the first letter my son mailed home from camp had no salutation and was unsigned, with two words scribbled on a sheet of paper: "SEND FOOD." I joked that compared to that letter, which left both my wife and I wondering if we sent our son off to a penal colony, this was a love letter. I laughed. She didn't even smile. Clearly, my words were of no comfort.

I offered to open a bottle of wine with dinner. She accepted.

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