I found the letters the week I had the Hong Kong flu. I was 18. I came home from college a week before Christmas vacation started, and collapsed, counting on my mom to nurse me back to health. Being a little self centered in those days, I had forgotten she was recovering from a hysterectomy where they discovered cancer (she had returned a week later for another more radical surgery) and was in bed herself. Plus, she caught the Hong Kong flu from me. We were both so sick it hurt to even move our eyes. I remember us laying in her bed together, moaning and comparing the new symptoms we got each day. Actually, it was kind of fun.
One day when our eyes were better, I went downstairs searching for something, and discovered an old green duffle bag full of letters. I brought them up to Mom's room and she said they were Dad's letters from World War II (he was in Australia.) We dumped them out on the bed and started reading. There were some letters from his parents, telling day to day stuff, and love letters from Mom as well as a few other girls. There were lots of letters he had written home, too. I read a couple of those, and then I ran into a letter from a friend of Dad's. He told about some wild weekend he had spent on leave, describing how he got some girl to take off her underpants. I started reading this one out loud to Mom and she was horrified...especially when she saw who it was from! She shuffled through a few more letters and found others that were from this same Romeo and she became disgusted. She packed all the letters back into the duffle bag and hauled them out to our incinerator, and burned them! Dad's war experiences went up in smoke! They aren't recorded anywhere.
When we moved several years ago I found a shoe-box of letters my Grampa had written my Grama when they were first married, in 1920. I had rescued them from a purging years before but had never read them. They were so tender! Grampa was working in a different state and he wrote to her every day. He was only 20 at the time, and he was very lovey-dovey and flowery. "To My Dimpled Darling"...."From your most loving Sweetheart" and lots of poetry and longing words. I was born when my Grampa was 50, so I couldn't imagine them as young newlyweds until I read those letters. I had found a treasure.
Letters were the mainstay of communication "back in the day." It was very expensive to call long distance, so when loved ones lived any distance from each other they had to write. When our family lived in England for a year we wrote and received letters every day. I asked people to save them for us, and they are a journal of our experiences there. The kids chronicled their homesickness, we recorded current events (the space shuttle disaster, bombing of Qadaffi in Libya, terrorist attacks in London) and we all expressed lots of love to those at home. I'm so glad we have that record.
Now I have "free" long distance (for a price, of course) so I can talk to everyone as often as I want, no matter where they live. This is a wonderful blessing since I have kids and grandkids flung across the country, but there is no record...nothing to save and reread in years to come. And so, a blog.
I love blogging. I just wish it had a better name. We are journalists, correspondents, photographers, historians, writers, artists, and graphic designers. Those titles sound so much cooler than "bloggers." Our writings will be as precious as any cache of letters would be, especially since there won't be any cache of letters to find...and nothing to burn.