Hear Cecily Criminale’s narration of her letter to Savannah in the video above.
LONDON (WSAV) — “You’re in my bones, Savannah,” wrote Hostess City native Cecily Criminale in her love letter to her hometown. “No matter where I go in the world, my blood is yours.”
The American expatriate and therapist now lives in London, where she settled after falling in love and marrying an Englishman, she tells WSAV.com NOW.
Criminale recently started a blog called Expat Airmail: Letter to Places and People, where she writes “letters” to cities she’s visited that have left a lasting impression on her.
“What would really have made me comfortable and happy was to get a letter in my post box, and I thought, gosh, it’s been a long time since we used letters to communicate,” Criminale said.
“I remember being a kid, having a pen pal and wow, if you’ve gotten something international with the air mail post, that was really exciting,” she said. “So I thought, I’m just going to reach out to the places that I love, send them a letter and say ‘hi, how ya doin’, and Savannah was at the top of the list.”
In the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, she penned a virtual letter to her birthplace to let Savannah and its people know that they’re in her thoughts.
“Savannah has a really special place in my heart because it’s home,” Criminale said.
Her solo first experience flying back to Savannah at 5 years old inspired the blog.
Coming from a military family that bounced around the Deep South, Criminale got to visit her grandparents and other family members in Savannah every summer.
She says she has fond memories of the city and surrounding areas.
“It’s the smell of the marsh,” she recalled to WSAV.com NOW about walks with her cousin around Oatland Island.
“It’s those quiet kind of days with the wind blowing through the trees that was so fantastic for me,” she said. “I mean, when we got to go into Savannah, Woolworth’s was still open, or go the Krispy Kreme that actually had a drive through in it, you know?,” she laughed.
In her heartfelt walk down memory lane, Criminale expresses thanks for the lessons in loss and grief she learned from an early age in Savannah, which she says lets her know the city will prevail through the current pandemic.
“It may not seem unusual to you, Savannah, but how you rally around your community in death is unique and beautiful,” she wrote in her blog post.
The letter has resonated with other expats who have ties to and fond memories of Savannah, Criminale shared.
“So many people have said, ‘wow, I got married in Savannah, I would love to go back with my husband,’ or, ‘I haven’t been there in years,’” Criminale said.
“It’s amazing even though they’re not in Savannah, they’re having a lovely memory come up for them that takes them away, just for a moment, from all the negativity that we see on TV, so it’s been really heartening,” she said, adding that people in Savannah who have read her letter online have also been appreciative of support she’s shown the city from across the pond.
“They’ve been saying ‘thank you so much, it reminds me what we have, we really appreciate you reminding us,’” Criminale said.
Criminale shared some words of encouragement for those in her hometown as they continue navigating the unknowns of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“For right now, for today, live in the present for what you’ve got and really appreciate the people around you,” she said, adding, “That’s what we’re doing here [in London], just getting by day by day.”
The 14-year resident of the United Kingdom praised Savannah for its citizens’ “wonderful sense of taking care of each other,” which she says she has no doubt is happening right now.
“You know, just keep doing it,” she said. “Keep looking after each other and you’ll get through it. We all will.”
Read Criminale’s letter to Savannah by viewing her blog post here.