Among the clutter I was striving to sift through and clear out when I moved into this house thirteen years ago, was a rather large assortment of letters and greeting cards I’ve received over a number of years from friends and a few of my cousins. It took a couple of years just to sift through the hefty bags of correspondence that came from my parents’ home when we cleaned that out. One of my cousins said I was not supposed to read the contents, just pitch. There were a few gems among the real trash and eventually I whittled them down. I found some old pictures and the addresses of some of my parents’ friends like my mom’s good friend, Marge. I was able to write her and tell her about my father passing too. She sent a note back saying she still missed my mother. I remember how my mom enjoyed their long phone conversations. They had been girlhood friends and both ended up raising their families in the suburb of Mayfield Heights.
Since e-mail pretty much took over personal letters and people read, respond and delete all traces of these communications, we really are, as I once read, deleting our history. How many times are packets of old letters found in someone’s attic a source of new information, or of unknown loves.
I look at the greeting cards and find them so cute, funny or lovely that I don’t want to just toss them, at least not before I have a chance to scan them for future reference. I might feel a little guilty about all the old letters but I started re-reading them to see what I could let go of and I ended up with a milk crate full to the brim with letters that are still interesting and replete with stories about the children and their antics or accomplishments. Instead of throwing any of them away, I put the crate into a closet where they remain a treasure filled with secrets, hopes, dreams, frustrations and I wonder who else might find them important.
In a recent e-mail I had from my late friend Camilla’s brother, he said he’s found so many of my letters that Camilla kept, and he didn’t think she ever threw out a Christmas card.