Posts Tagged ‘family letters’

Family Archives: A World War II Letter From My Dad

November 15, 2020
11/14/20 Veterans Day has passed. My family fought in the Revolutionary War. Several were on the side of the North in the Civil War. (Lucius Chubb was part of the Iron Brigade which suffered huge losses in the first battle at Gettysburg and died of his wounds a month later.) My dad was in World War II, in the Navy, eventually on Guam. I am most proud of this letter he wrote to my mother while he was still stationed in Ames, Iowa. Their first baby was my brother Paul.
The second page is a love letter, closing with his Christmas wish list. He wrote: “If anyone else wants suggestions, I like books. Many late titles I’d like to have. I mentioned one on a card: “Towards Freedom” by Nehru and any of Lin Yutang’s works. “Dragon Seed” by Pearl S. Buck would be nice or anything you’d like to read. Really, I don’t care if I get anything. If there was a fund for feeding hungry children of Europa I’d suggest people give to it what they’d give to me. I’m rich in everything. Love, Sid

Not Just for Diaries

May 7, 2020

The National Diary Archive I intend to establish will include letters.  Letters are a different sort of private writing, a more nuanced level of self-exposure.  They may not be written with the desire to reveal much, yet they often betray their creator with impunity.   Everything you write, even what you do not say, brings your character to light.   What does it say about you?  Your choice of pen, paper, even the stamp, whispers truths.

I suppose the level of honesty in one’s letters depends a great deal on who the recipient is, i.e. your father, mother, grandmother, or sister, and, of course, your relationship to that person…close or fraught with tension.

As much as re-reading my journals, I experience the voyeuristic pleasure of reading a stranger’s secrets.  Surprise! They are my own.  Some of my letters contain stories of experiences I had forgotten.  Who can remember 50 years ago?  Now a senior, I cannot reliably remember what happened last Tuesday.

What I do remember from last week is the discovery of a shoebox full of around 50 letters I wrote between 1970 and 1976.  A real treasure!   I am reading about parts of my life that have become dim in memory.   Luckily I come from a family of hoarders of ephemera, who preserved my literary outpourings.

Unless the letters stored in your attic are so banal you would hide from embarrassment, I encourage you to preserve them.  You can make them into a pseudo-diary.  Preserve them in a three-ring binder, or a notebook without harmful fasteners, or put them individually into plastic pockets and then into a binder. Your family, your descendants, may appreciate them.  If not, a total stranger of the future world.

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