Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Save Those Letters

Yesterday morning, I read an article in the Kansas City newspaper about letters a woman saved and gave to her son only a few years prior to her death. The 372 letters were ones she'd received from her soldier husband during the time he fought in WWII. The son, once a reporter for the Kansas City Star, will talk and read excerpts from the letters at a special ceremony at the National WWI Museum in Kansas City.

The article made me think about the many letters that my mother and I wrote to one another  for so many years. It started when I was in college and then, later, my frugal mother preferred the cost of stamp to that of a long distance phone call. In her mind, long distance was for informing someone of a death or tragedy, not idle chit-chat. I can only imagine what she'd say about the phone habits of today.

I looked forward to her letters which let me know what was happening with the family and the area where I grew up. Her witticisms brought smiles many a time and, if she had a complaint, she could safely write to me without hurting anyone else's feelings. I wrote to her about my life teaching, then raising children, moving to a different state and then my writing journey later on.

Those letters were treasures and I am sorry to my very bones that I did not save them. Nor did she save mine. Just chit-chat we thought. No reason to keep them. I can hear Mom saying Who would want to read them again? Well, it's me now that would give anything to read those letters once more. Bits and pieces of political history landed in those letters via Mom's opinions on who was in office or who might be running. Same with new things introduced via TV and so much more.

If I had that big stack of letters now, I could write even more family stories. Far too late now. People write fewer and fewer letters today. Email is the easier way to connect with family and friends as well as other social media. Even so, if you correspond regularly with someone via email, you can save the messages in a file folder online. Or you can print them and put them in a place where you can read them again whenever you like.

Think about our pioneers who kept journals and sent letters back to families far away. What a record they left for us. What if no one had saved them?

Only last year, we received some journal entries written by my husband's aunt--his mother's sister. In one entry, she had copied parts of a letter my husband's mother had written during the Depression years. Something was mentioned that no one in the family ever knew, something his mother never wanted made public. But all these years later, it meant a great deal to my husband and his brothers to have the information. Only because that journal and letter excerpt had been saved and found later.

Think twice about tossing out a letter you get from a close friend or a grandchild or your son. You may regret not having that lasting record of what had been said between you.

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