Love Letters

I was talking to my mother yesterday about my “love letters.”  She didn’t know that I have about 40-50 letters that my husband wrote to me the entire time we were married.  I would find a note in my shoe when I was getting ready for work; mostly, he would leave a letter stuck to the door with an Elmo magnet.

We are no longer married, but the love never died and we are good friends.  Even now, he occasionally sends me an email to tell me that I’m taking good care of our son and that I’m a good mom.

I was thinking about grouping them all together in a book to save for my son and his future children.  I know he wouldn’t want to read them now, but maybe when he’s older.  I think they are special and should be preserved—who writes letters anymore?

I woke up today thinking about the other letters I have in my teenage box of ephemera.  I have a few letters from 1985 when my BFF spent the summer in Florida.  I have letters my cousin sent from all over the world while cruising on a Navy battleship.  I have all the email correspondence from my funny, satirical brother, whose middle name is brevity—those are gold.  I have a letter my 4th great-grandfather wrote to his brother in 1823.   Truly priceless.

Text messages and Facebook status updates are today’s letters.  I have instant messages sent between my brother and my son when he was five or six.  Last year, I saved about three hours of Facebook chatter between my extended family, while we waited for my cousin to deliver her baby.  Family from all over the country shared this special moment, with my aunt outside the delivery room with a smartphone, sending us instant updates.  What a treasure.

It makes me happy to know that one day my grandchildren will read these and know something about their history.  I look at pictures of my ancestors and wonder who they were and why they did what they did.  Every letter, email, text or status update is a record of everyday life and they must be preserved.



“Young Willie took off one day, never to be heard from again.” Great characters can be found at home

Young Willie wasn’t so young.  He was a 43 years old husband and father of six children who received an inheritance from his father and was able to purchase a farm of his own for the first time.  Three years later, he sold it back to the previous owner for the purchase price.  It was 1875 and I could find no evidence of him after that date.  He was my Great-Great Grandfather, son of a pioneering minister in Canada.

Young Willie is not part of the novel have started to finally plot out, but he is always in my mind, thumbing his nose at my endless questions.  Young Willie is only one character that I have found right in my own family history.  The wonderful thing is that I will be able to write a story for Young Willie, inventing his travels and his ending.  I can’t wait.

I have been reading US history books spanning the late 1800s to the 1930s.  The books have probably been too detailed for my purposes, but I want to know how people lived; the hardships, gender relations, familial structures, and ultimately what drove people to make drastic changes in their lives.  One of the common themes with my character is sudden, life-altering moments that propel them in unexpected directions, with long-term consequences. Continue reading