and how to say a lot with a little
Every now and then when I go through some old boxes I happen upon a postcard that my Moffa (grandfather) sent me during his later years. In fact, I think it is the last thing I received from him before he passed away. The cursive handwriting has gone through an incredible effort to spell out my complicated American address. I don’t think my grandpa knew much English. The card depicts a field of red poppies bathing in sunlight with a blue-skied backdrop. And then, below the address, I detect a brief message in the same shaky cursive:
“Nothing new from Nykarleby. Bruno.”
I cannot explain how much I love this postcard. To send a message like that, literally to the other side of the globe, is absolutely wonderful. If you or I wrote the postcard we would probably have added at least a few boring tidbits about the weather and perhaps something about the most exciting thing that had happened recently. But nothing. Nothing new had happened to Bruno. And that was his message to me.
It used to frustrate me a little that he only wrote that one line. I do recall laughing when I first received the card. It could not have been written by anyone else but Moffa. The address took up most of the space on the card, and there, in the lower edge, almost trailing off the paper, was the little message. I am fond of writing, and could go on and on writing pages upon pages about nothing. My grandfather mastered what I can never achieve, at least not to such a perfection - a perfectly succinct message. A clear communication that would not lose its meaning even if it traveled to the other side of the world.
I wonder if what he really meant to say was: “Nothing new from Nykarleby, but I am thinking of you and I saw this card and then I thought to myself: “That Minna, I wonder what she is doing over there in California. I think there are poppies in California, aren’t there? Well, let’s send her this card to let her know that her old Moffa is still alive. Yes, those poppies look a bit like those cornflowers there on the meadows in Socklot, don’t they? I would look at those flowers when I would wander out there on the fields.” Something like that. But then we would forget something crucial. We would forget that my Moffa was Finnish. And that means that sometimes (often) less is more when it comes to words. So nothing new from Nykarleby actually meant quite a lot more in the mind of the old man who wrote it. It took his grand-daughter years, many many years, to realize that.