I have spent large chunks of my day reading letters that my mom wrote to my grandmother. They mostly date from the early years of my parents’ marriage, but some go as far back as late fifties. Those are primarily requests for clothes, pistachio nuts and woolen pajamas that my mom wrote from Camp Wonderland in Buckingham, PA.
About a week ago, I flung myself in a cleaning/purging binge. I’ve got a mountain of bags sitting in my living room, waiting to be taken to the thriftstore across the street. I’ve said goodbye to nearly all of my grandmother’s handbags that I was still holding on to. And I decided it was time to go through those last two boxes that were tucked onto the top shelf of my closet (which was once my grandmother’s). These are the boxes that have yielded this treasure trove.
In addition to the letters from my mom, I’ve discovered a few photographs I’d never before seen of my mom’s family when they were all young and lovely, some cool bits of memorabilia that represent my dad’s younger years (a poster for a concert he performed on March 15, 1975 at UC Santa Cruz) and a cluster of letters that my uncle sent home from Vietnam.
The letters have been this fascinating peek into my mom’s younger self. It’s been totally compelling to read them as a collection, to get an opportunity to have a voice that is both familiar and foreign wend it’s way into my brain. I’ve called her at least four times today, each time because I’ve found a letter that I want to share with her (even though she was the one who originally wrote it). She made a comment during our last phone call about how she never realized when she was writing these letters (many of which she doesn’t even remember) that in a sense she was as much writing them for me as she had for her mother.
I feel sort of sad that my children won’t have the same opportunity to read my letters as I’ve had to read these belonging to my mom. In some small way, I hope that this blog stands in for my lack of correspondence (although chances are that my google account will outlive me and they’ll be able to read all my tedious little emails). Having read all these letters today, I sat down tonight and wrote a short note to my mom, feeling like I should give something back for all the entertainment I’ve enjoyed today.