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Our Life in Letters

Updated: Aug 29, 2022

About two weeks ago I was looking through paint samples at Lowe's. We've been in this house for seven and a half years and for seven and a half of those years, I've wanted to change the paint color in the library from pool-hall parlor red to something else. Something that wouldn't require I wear a lighted miner's helmet just to see the books on the shelves.

But before I paint, I have to empty those bookshelves. Eight shelves, seven of which are close to seven feet tall, are filled with books. Three of the shelves are topped with twenty-two full photo albums and two have five photo boxes full of photos to be sorted. Then there are letters and cards... I'm an orderly person but over the years have found stray photos or duplicates left by the kids as they moved away. I can't throw them away and so into a box they go until I have the time to figure out which decade and to which volume of these albums they belong. Dad didn't leave much when he died, but Mama kept everything and so now I have duplicates from the kids' collections, duplicates from Mom's photos, and letters to sift through. I'm definitely going to need more albums.

Our joys and successes are documented in these albums: birthdays, track meets, moving vans, and graduations. Cards and letters complete the story, yet we don't tend to keep every letter or birthday card and so the ones we do are rather special. I thought I'd share a couple today: a card from my mother (which still makes me smile) and a letter to Mom from her grandparents dated December 19, 1941. I'll translate the letter first.

"Orrick Mo. Dec 19 (19)41. Bertha being you are the first grandchild that ever wrote me a letter I send you a Christmas present Grandpa."

That first part was in my great-grandfather, Thurman Dudgeon's hand. The second part was added by Grandma Dudgeon:

"He thinks this will help you in on your suit. You wait till next Xmas to get presents except Dennis, Cecil Edwin, (unreadable) Sallie are going shopping today. We would like to hear from you and let Wilbur know if you want him to mail you at Floyd. GrandPa is hurry me to mail this lots of love tell Mickie to be nice it almost Christmas I am trying it myself. Grand Ma."

I never thought to date cards but I'm guessing Mom sent this one just before the 2004 presidential election:

"I've been cleaning out the clothes closet and sock and underwear drawers. I have enough to last for years.

The microwave died last week, Gary took it away for me.

Our summer weather is really beautiful but I like cool weather. It's hard to get interested in food on hot days but it's the nights that are bad as I can't sleep. I'll be glad when the election is over. Too bad we can't get rid of George.

Don't forget I need Shannon's address. When you sneeze, do you pee? I could never go without underwear, but you are truly a Free Spirit and I love you dearly. Give my little girls my love. Mom"

I imagine that seeing her grandparents' handwriting was bittersweet and so she kept the letters. There were times I didn't want another lecture and so I threw those cards away immediately after reading them. I wish I'd kept them because I still need her advice; I still need her to remind me to wear socks and to get a flu shot and to wear underwear because at 60, sometimes I pee when I sneeze.

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