From Kurt Vonnegut to his daughter Nanny, 1972:
Dear Nanno —
You should know that I as a college student didn’t write my parents much. You said all that really matters in your first letter from out there (unless you get in a jam) — that you love me a lot. Mark wrote me the same thing recently. That helps, and it lasts for years. I think I withheld that message from my parents. Either that, or I said it so often that it became meaningless. Same thing, either way.
I promise to take your advice, to try painting again. I quite when the slightly talented ghost who had borrowed my hands decided to take his business elsewhere. Everything was coming together before my eyes for a little while. After that came kindergarten smears.
Most letters from a parent contain a parent’s own lost dreams disguised as good advice. My good advice to you is to pay somebody to teach you to speak some foreign language, to meet with you two or three times a week and talk. Also: get somebody to teach you to play a musical instrument. What makes this advice especially hollow and pious is that I am not dead yet. If it were any good, I could easily take it myself.
One of the most startling things that ever happened to me when I was your age had to do with a woman who was my age now. She didn’t know what to do with her life, and I told her that the least she could do was to learn to play the piano. But my apartment isn’t big enough for a piano, and I’m too lazy to move. Edith has the right idea for lazy people: marry somebody with energy to burn.
I’m going to England for a week next month — to go to college-town openings there of [the movie of] Slaughterhouse-Five. I will think of you, and I will remember with pleasure how shy we were, how sort of gummed-up we were. That was appropriate. It would have been hateful if we had been hilarious, like a father and daughter in a TV show.
Don’t answer this letter for years.
Remember me fondly.
[via the excellent Kurt Vonnegut: Letters]