Over the weekend, I worked on my Project Life album. I'm way behind, but it was super fun to see how much the Peanut has grown in the past 18 months, and also to see all of the adventures the Sailor and I had over the past year and a half. I took a LOT of photos. I'm sure I wouldn't have nearly as many without having a camera on my phone.
In fact, it's hard to imagine life these days without modern technology, right?
While working on the Project Life pages, I came across a pile of letters and postcards I remember purchasing at a flea market a few years ago. I liked the look of the airmail envelopes and I had something crafty in mind when I bought them. I don't remember what, now, but I do remember leaning over that particular table, rifling through the letters and and picking out the ones I wanted. I probably wanted to use the stamps for something.
Last night, while the Peanut got into every plastic bin I had scattered on the floor, I found the letters and began to read them.
Once I started, I couldn't put them down. I was astounded.
I'm sure the set is incomplete, but from the few letters I have, I gathered that a couple set off on a trip overseas — one of their letters mentioned 15 countries in all. They were writing to their daughter in the summer of 1955. I just assumed she was older, maybe in college. But the more I read, the more I found out. She must have been a wee toddler — not even in school yet. It seemed like she was staying with her grandparents for the summer while her parents (who often signed off as Daddy and Mamma) were gallivanting the globe for a few weeks to Europe and the Middle East. A few of the letters mentioned that they hadn't yet heard from their daughter and they were pleading for the grandparents to write when the couple arrived in London, where they could receive post. One letter even said, 'Ask Grandpa to get an airmail stamp from the post office.'
I felt a little like I was invading someone's privacy, but I kept reading.
Eventually, I found the letter that Grandpa had written and mailed to London, in care of a travel agent and addressed to a 'Reverend'. I can only guess that the couple was perhaps on a mission or pilgrimage of some sort. Grandpa said he hadn't written yet because his eye glasses broke in the meantime. In addition, he didn't have enough ink in his pen and needed to get more. He also mentioned that the little girl couldn't wait to have the letters read to her when they arrived.
I realize that I grew up in an era without cell phones, without Facebook and without so much technology. The Internet only really came about when I went to college. I remember going off to Africa as a 20-something and not talking on the phone to my mom for five months. I did however, at least email her.
And I have never lacked for a pen.
There's something incredible though about thinking about this couple, who only wrote snail mail letters home to their daughter. And even though they were airmail, I'd imagine the post wasn't as fast as it is today.
If the little girl was still alive, she'd be in her 60s. I'm guessing though, that the people mentioned in the letter are all deceased. It's probably how the letters ended up in a flea market basket at a bargain price. Someone probably had an estate sale, and they ended up getting shuffled around until I eventually found them.
I had a huge clear out of my letters recently (read Marie Kondo's 'The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up' for tips on purging!) But there are a number that I still kept, letters my mom wrote me through the years, all of my written correspondence from the Sailor, and letters from my traveling 'sisters' from our years scattered around the globe.
Some days I wonder if someone will end up reading through my own letters, trying to piece together a piece of the past. I find it hard to believe that people will really remember the little snippets of technology that we engage in day to day and minute by minute. After all, so many things like Facebook status updates, Instagram pics, and tweets are all so temporary. Even though nothing is really ever 'gone' from the Internet, are people really going to remember that we posted something about the weather?
It's funny how a written letter changes that perspective. The Reverend wrote about the weather in his letters, and the Grandpa wrote in return about their weather (apparently 1955 had the hottest summer on record in Maryland). Some things, like talking about the weather, never change. But those letters have at least endured.
Maybe that's why I'm still into snail mail. It's like leaving a little glimpse of another life, for another generation.