Anyone who has had a conversation with me in the past couple years most likely knows about the letters. The letters my sister and I found in my mom’s attic. The letters my sister so graciously let me possess. The letters my grandparents wrote to each other almost daily just shy of 100 years ago. The letters totaling in the hundreds.
A cardboard box held randomly sorted bundles of letters. Each bundle doubly wrapped with twine. The journey they must have taken, arriving so unbelievably well preserved. Traveling mostly by train in my grandparent’s trunks from Georgia to South Carolina to North Carolina. Stored somewhere in their not exactly climate controlled home for some 60 years. Then perched in Mom’s non climate controlled attic for another 35+ years.
The stamps still cling like ivy. Each letter’s route shown by a simple address of name, town and state. The pages unfold like they were meant to be read today. No faded ink. Pencil writings still clear as day. The tiniest signs of a nibble by a silverfish or other attic dwelling varmint here or there, but by no means were they infested. Almost as if a shield protected them.
Unbundling them and reading random ones was overwhelming. How to make sense of it all? Postmarks jumped out at me and I began to sort them.
The top tray of Grandaddy’s trunk holds the letters perfectly. The tray fits snuggly in a drawer of my Granddaddy’s chest of drawers. This chest was another item that was more than a gracious gift from my sister. Weeks passed. Opening the drawer and looking at them, occasionally taking a handful out to read. How to proceed? Scan them? Put the actual letters in an album? Then one day I started typing.
Malcolm and Ida’s love story is told eloquently through their own words. Very little narration is needed to know how they were feeling or what was going on in their lives at the time. Their story tells of their love and gives a glimpse into life in small town America in the early 1920’s.
I knew my Grandaddy, Malcolm. He died when I was 13. Ida died before any of her grandchildren were born. My Mother never spoke of her. Lesson learned. Ask questions of your elders. Tell stories to your youth.
Even though reality says it was a course of events that placed the letters where they did and kept them safe, there is a part of me that wants to feel they were put there just for me. To tell a story that had gone untold. Ida’s July 4, 1922, letter to Malcolm affirms my feelings. The first few paragraphs about a family trip to their old homestead reads as if it was a description meant to be documented for generations to come.
July 4, 1922
My dearest you
I am so tired and sleepy. I am blistered from above my elbows to the tops of my fingers and my neck too. I’ve got catcher thorns all over one ankle and I am having a time. I can’t get them all out. But we did have such a good time. We left here early and went to the river. Rather a creek that runs into the Flint. Carl and Aunt Paulina fished some. The creek is on my Grandfather Smith’s old plantation. Where my Mother and Aunt Paulina lived. I don’t remember going to Grandfather’s but the older ones do. They were like kids let loose again.
After lunch, we rested and talked and talked. You got your share of it! Of course I was teased all day. Claude slipped his arm through mine and we took a good long walk and talk. He is the best old brother in the world. So like my Father. Then we de-camped and went by the old cemetery where Mother and most of our people are buried. We cleaned it up and put out fresh flowers. Then on by our old home place, where I was born. We stopped and went all around in the yard. Then down to the barn that opens into a pasture. Claude had to see if the old farm gate he built was still there. They were all so funny and had such fun yelling out, “do you remember the time….” Of course, I did not remember much. I was just three years old when I left there. But they told me and showed me where I learned to walk and where I fell down. Carl had to take a look at the old “wash hole” down in the pasture.
I wished for you. Would you like to see it all? Of course it wouldn’t mean much to you but it filled me up for all of us, the 6 girls and 2 boys to go back there together. I know you have had enough of this but I wanted to tell you.
Just a small portion of the letters are left to transcribe. Malcolm and Ida will marry soon. Writing daily to each other will not be a necessity. Their path through married life is for the most part known but oh to be privy to their continued conversations.
How will I edit and format these letters? I am not sure. Will anyone want to read the finished product? I am not sure. Do I regret for a minute the time I am spending on this project? Absolutely not!