Treasured Letters

letters 005

In that drawer in the bedroom where we put things that are dear to us, we have three stacks of letters. One stack is from our oldest daughter, our second child, written when she was 17 and living in Switzerland for a year. It was so very hard having her so very far away, before Skype, internet, and inexpensive overseas calls – or was it before we could afford overseas calls. We missed her and looked forward to her long letters describing her experiences in a foreign land, speaking a foreign language, and going to school. Through her letters and photos she introduced us to her new family, the one she still visits yearly. I haven’t read these letters since she returned home and then left again, and again, and many times again. I started reading them today, and couldn’t stop. What a treasure they are. She hasn’t read them since she mailed them – maybe she will soon, or someday.

The other two stacks were written by J’s mother and father in 1936-37. Bill was an immigrant from Canada, living and working in Jackson. Mary was a widow in her early 20’s, dirt poor (this was before there was government help for widows or children living in poverty), with three very young children, trying to survive the depression. She lived 35 miles away in Marshall. They met, fell in love, and until they married a year later, they communicated with letters during the week, eagerly waiting for Bill’s visits on week-ends.

After they married, they continued to live apart while Bill looked for a home for his new family. After they were united in Jackson, Bill adopted the three children and loved them as his own. Six years later, Mary was surprised to find she was pregnant; and J was born to them.

I grew to love them for many reasons. but it was Bill’s willingness to love and provide for the three children that touches me most. They continued to live apart after they married because it took Bill several months to find a house for his new family. In those months apart, they didn’t pick up the phone for a long-distance chit-chat, they wrote a letter.

April 6/37

Dearest Mary:

Just now got home from work and am going to write to you before I sit down to supper.

It sure did rain Sunday night on the way to Jackson and all day Monday. I had a flat tire Monday, it is a wonder that it did not go flat on the way back Sunday night.

I see where you have a new mayor in Marshall!

I went over to see that lady last night, and she said that she was going to give these people that live in the house a chance to pay up the rent or else she would get them out. I asked her how long it would be, and she said she did not know to be exact; so I’m going to look around some more and see if I cannot find something else. She wants $25.00 a month for that house and the kitchen is small, I told her I would let her know later.

How is your Dad? I hope he feels a lot better than he did. How are our kids? Tell them I will see them Friday and to be good.

Well Dear I have about run out of news, so I will mail this so as you can get it Wednesday. Will see you Friday night. Lots of love to you and the children.

Your husband,


Will our internet communication provide us with the same sense of intimacy that these types of letter provide? As I was reading the letters written by Bill & Mary, I felt like I was intruding into something very special and private – even though they have been dead many years. They were written in their handwriting with unique phrasing that helped me remember their personalities. These stacks of letters will be saved as an important window into our family’s story.

You can see of all kinds of letters by visiting:

21 thoughts on “Treasured Letters

  1. How wonderful that you still have these. It made me remember when the Beatles first hit the US and all of us teens were trying to learn about the British culture. I actually had a pen pal from England for quite some time. Your post made me want to see if I kept those letters. I bet they’d be a hoot to read now!!!


      • I don’t know of any from my immediate family, but I do have a diary of a relative who wrote a line or two every day. It spans the years around WWII, and it’s interesting to read. One of the things that sticks out most is that she felt compelled to write every single day, but many days were just comments on the sameness of one day to the next.


        • Interesting. My mother, in her later years, kept daily diaries of the weather, what they had for supper, etc. She burned all of them, along with a diary she kept right after I was born. That one I wanted, but it was gone when I looked for it after she died.


  2. Thanks for sharing these. I still have letters that I’ve kept for year and I like to write letters, although I tend to send cards more often. I love the ease and quickness of email, but it’s so special to get a real letter. I think after this challenge, I may start writing more letters again.



    • Hi Janet, I agree about the quickness of e-mail and I love it, but I also love getting notes. It has been a long time since I have received an actual letter.


  3. The old letters really are treasures. I think about this so much. My mother has been rereading and shredding old letters that my father wrote to her and she wrote to my father. There were times during their marriage when my father had to take jobs out of state to take care of the family. It bothers me that she destroys them, but she says they are personal and they are her property and I have to accept that. She does share some of the little stories in them. It’s funny what we think is important in everyday life…letters capture that.


    • I feel for you as she shreds her letters. My mother had a little black diary that she kept after I was born and my father was overseas in the service. I saw it once a long time ago, but couldn’t find it after she died, I think she must have destroyed it. I really wanted it.


  4. The way we communicate has changed so much, but then so has the postal service. Here, it is now quite expensive to send a letter; collections and deliveries are fewer. When my parents were courting, my father would often write to my mother when he returned home from seeing her, post the letter and she would receive it in the morning.
    There us something magical about unfolding an old letter, seeing the curls of the handwriting, the spelling mistakes that owe nothing to predictive text, to touch the paper.
    This is such a lovely post.


    • Thank you, Isabel. I really enjoyed doing it and the letters are still sitting on my table so I can read a few more. We used to have two deliveries a day during the Christmas season and it was so exciting getting mail. Now all we get are bills and advertisements.


  5. We have an ongoing family conversation about letters vs e-mail, and the importance of a historical record. So much love gets lost in the digital world. Thank you for giving us a peek into your family’s history of love.


    • I’m glad you enjoyed it – because it was a very special post for me to write, I find I am doing more written notes to people – because they are so special.


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