I saved a short stack of cards and letters with photos from the last box of Mom’s hoard. I’d like to share a few excerpts from them. And at the end of this post I have a challenge for you!
My parents kept in touch with friends they had met while constructing power plants across the US. This “fun little group” of Boilermakers had bought adjacent properties along the Green River near Pindale, Wyoming, and they still all owned their spots when Mom died in 2006. From Sylvia and Don in Valpo, Indiana, December 18, 1986:
“When we’re 70 maybe some of us will meet up on top of the hills in Wyoming, with our campers and watch the moose and elk, grouse, sage hen. Hike down the hill on the tundra with flowers and catch some nice fresh fish from the running streams. We’ll all laugh and giggle about our outdoor privy. And no one will be around but our fun little group. One thing for sure I’m not dressing in a wet sleeping bag from the darn rain. Wasn’t that a kick! We’ll bring blackberry wine for Judy and oh the fun memories we can talk about at the camp fire.”
When my daughter was six years old I had become a single mom, finished college, and worked 2 jobs while trying to find a teaching position. From me, their daughter October 4, 1980:
“Thank you for the birthday gifts. The poem was nice, makes me want to spend more time with KC. Last nite I cleaned house and when I finished the dishes I sat down to paint with KC – but I fell asleep on the floor! (frowning face drawn here) Sometimes it’s not what you do together but the presence of spirits that counts.”
My son turned 18 in November of his Senior year and became quite independent so we let him live on the REBEL, our 36′ Monk built wooden boat, to finish high school. He came home for laundry and showers and we gave him grocery money. From me May, 1991:
“Grad gift for Ricky – we are buying him new tires, muffler, tune up parts, etc. for his car to give him a “running” start. He’s uncertain about summer plans. He is looking for work but has no $. He talks about college here next fall. He’s doing outstanding running the 3200 in track. Grades are good. Living on the REBEL is good for him.”
“I really enjoyed working on the square rigger Lady Washington in September. I was on her in the inner sound near Olympia and sailed her out the Strait to Neah Bay where I presented a workshop for teachers. The ship has asked me to work on her next season for special programs. She was (is a replica) a fur trading cargo vessel and built broad with square sails. She is really not much of a thrill to sail. I much prefer sailing Marconi rigs (triangle shaped sails).
The marine lab is offering me 20 hours a week next summer to expand my work with the public from 6 hours a week. – A raise, too, but certainly not nearly what I can make in public schools. I seem to be headed for more consulting and writing jobs and work at the lab so it looks like I’ll be able to meet my goal of working part time with flexible schedule and not have to go back full-time fo the school district, although they are obligated to me if I choose to go back. I truly do not miss the job of disciplining public youngsters!
The Native American museum at Neah Bay is preparing to move their artifacts to a new building and they have asked me help put the inventory into the computer. I’ll get to work with the Makah tribal elders and learn the language as they are categorizing artifacts by the native language and in accordance with non-material cultural heritage i.e. familial rights to symbolic designs and sex roles like women not allowed to handle whaling equipment. Such a lot to learn but what an experience! The anthropologist is ready to ask the tribal council to approve a curriculum writing project for me – a first for the museum and for the Washington outer coast which is just now being designated as a National Marine Sanctuary.”
These old letters are artifacts. They’re time capsules. They are reminders of how people connected with each other before we had all our electronic devices to send instant messages. Today’s messages are artifacts, too, but there’s something about going to the mailbox and finding a letter or card sealed in an envelope, addressed to you in a cursive handwriting you recognize as if the sender were talking to you in person, the penmanship and style, the unique voice of that writer. And the choice of stamps, that said something about the relationship between writer and reader. Sitting down with paper and pen to respond to the letter was an event, and then finding and addressing the envelope and a stamp, walking it to your mailbox. Letter writing was a ritual and we need rituals in our lives.
I know I’m not the only one who has found a stash of old letters hoarded away by our aging relatives. I admit I’ve saved many letters, too, though not as many as Mom. My mother kept boxes and boxes of cards and letters. They gave her comfort. Old letters, they get my muse jumping. It’s like a collage of memories collected around someone’s life.
“I think my mother saved every birthday or anniversary card they ever received from all five children and other relatives, including cards send to me when I was a kid from my grandparents. In fact, we found some that still had $2 bills in them, which they used to give me.”
Any of these excerpts motivate me to write. I’m going to pick one and use it to stimulate a blog post for the challenge I’ve made with bloggers Doug Warren and Pleasant Street starting the end of September.
When they commented on my last post about old letters we decided to challenge ourselves to once a month write a post inspired by some of our collection of old letters or cards or photos. Make the post the last week of each month. Start this month. Tag each other in these posts. Anyone can join us. I’ll set up the challenge the beginning of the last week, just write your post and tag my challenge post to set up a ping back. I hope you join our challenge!
Feature image by bhttp://alexandrajeancoffey.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/letters.jpg