Several weeks ago I posted about the huge pile of letters that I “inherited” when my mother died. She had saved every letter, birthday card., postcard, and message that my brothers and I had ever sent her. When we cleaned out her house, my brothers and I each saved the letters that we had written her. The letters have sat untouched in my back bedroom for three years. I posted that I was going to start going through them and figure out what to do with them. It didn’t seem appropriate to throw them away without looking at them, but there’s such a huge pile that it is overwhelming. I committed to spending at least an hour a week sorting the letters.
I have now spent several hours sorting the letters into groups by year. The photo above shows the letters from 1968, the first year that there is a collection of my letters. There are 21 letters, 4 postcards, and two copies of my college newspaper written between September, 1968 and December, 1968. This is the year that I graduated from high school and left California for college in Oregon.
There are letters for every year up to 1990. I have read only a few of the letters. Some of them didn’t have clear postmarks so to determine the year I had to open them to find the date…and several times I couldn’t resist reading. I think it must be a little like reading a diary years after writing it. I revisited long forgotten people and events.
There are many letters from 1976-78, the years my husband and I served in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua. I read several letters from 1980-82. These years my children were the same ages as my grandchildren are now. I was never very good about writing down in their baby books all those cute things my kids said and did. In the few letters that I took time to read, there are anecdotes of their development. I had forgotten completely that my son’s first sentence was “Drink beer?”
I guess it was a good thing that I didn’t throw them away. But I’m still not sure how to proceed. I do want to recover the stories of my children’s childhood. Now that they are organized by year, I will start reading through them. I’m thinking about writing a timeline of what was going on in the world each year and what our family was doing.
There aren’t any long lost secrets buried in my letters, but I am enjoying revisiting my youthful self. …and then I’ll get the courage to throw them away!