Voices From the Past

I save letters.

You remember letters. Correspondence. Those missives written on paper and mailed, before we had email.

As part of my ongoing campaign to thin out the clutter here at Chez Janet (otherwise known as the House of Cat Hair) I have been going through stacks of paper, including letters. Some have been consigned to the shred box. Others I save, and will continue to do so.

Why? They are voices from the past.

I see a letter in my father’s handwriting. I think of him and picture his face. It’s been nearly ten years since he died, but I still feel his presence. And I can still hear his voice.

I open envelopes and pull out letters written by my Aunt Kat or Aunt Dorothy or Aunt Regina. Even those these redoubtable ladies died a number of years ago, I can hear their voices. I see them.

I had two Aunt Dorothys and three Aunt Helens. The Aunt Dorothy who wrote to me was a short dynamo who loved to garden and made the most delectable butterscotch pie. Aunt Kat loved people and always seemed to have a crowd of them around her. She was the one who organized family reunions. Aunt Regina was an artist and a teacher. In her letters, she wrote to tell me how much she enjoyed reading my books.

Earlier letters tucked away in a file folder call forth memories of both my grandmothers. Grandma Dawson, who lived in Fort Dodge, Kansas, had a large and interesting collection of salt and pepper shakers. Grandma Metcalf’s house in Purcell, Oklahoma, with a front porch swing and mimosa trees in the yard, was the center of many family gatherings, such as summers in the backyard with the uncles and cousins turning the balky crank on the ice cream maker. I remember Grandma’s homemade blackberry cobbler, and the holiday dinners around the big dining room table.

And I recall Grandma and her sister, my Great-Aunt Flora, playing cutthroat, take-no-prisoners Scrabble at the dining room table. Grandma’s Scrabble set, I must confess, had a number of homemade wooden tiles because some of the grandkids used to drop the tiles down the furnace vent on the floor. Was that me? I don’t remember. What I do remember when I see those letters is playing with kitchen utensils that I’d dragged out of a drawer. And how I first realized that I was getting taller because I could touch the latch on Grandma’s china cabinet.

Yes, those letters do take up room. But I can’t imagine getting rid of them. They bring back such voices and images of the past, my past.


One Response

  1. When MSU bought (not “got) my literary papers for their archives and carted off 93-odd boxes going back 30 years they includes boxes and boxes of letters and in some cases photocopies of correspondence with people I wanted a record of. Even now, if it’s important, I print a letter off from email for my records.

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