When I visited Philadelphia recently, my mother gave me a package of letters. As soon as I saw the bundle, I knew who wrote them and when they were sent, but I had only a vague memory of the contents.
I was the writer, and they were letters home when I had an opportunity to spend some time at a private boarding school. I only lasted one year. I guess the Bohemian in me was already coming out. The school tie, jacket, and cap itched and irked me from day one. At every opportunity, I was walking in the woods or fishing on one of the three lakes on the school grounds, or reading alone in some quiet, comfy corner.
Most of the letters were rather ordinary – asking my mother for a book or some cookies, or some piece of clothing. One long letter explained why I need a certain Latin dictionary – Cassell’s – which I still have and still use.
Here is an excerpt from a typical letter:
“Dear Mom and Dad:The candy you sent last week is all gone. Those cookies only lasted one night. Next time send a big box with 5 or 6 dozen so they last a few nights. Those coconut bars lasted about 2 minutes. … We didn’t get flu shots yet. Besides that, I need a better rod. Here are the results from last week: Wedesday – 1. Thursday -2. Friday – 2. Saturday – 1. Wednesday and Thursday were crappies and the others were sunnies. Thank you for the watch band it is just perfect. Also in your next letter send up some money for my account, in a separate envelope. Your Loving Son Jim”
I was a pretty decent speller then but not so good with commas.
One special treasure was an essay I wrote on Robert Frost. To be honest, I do not recall actually writing it, but it does have my name and the corrections of the teacher.
Ramona and I spent one evening going through them, and we howled until the moon came up. Unfortunately, I did not date every one, and some became separated from the envelopes, which had post marks, but even some of those were illegible. But if I think really hard, and work long hours at the puzzle, I can probably put them in some semblance of order: a project for a lazy vacation with nowhere to go and nothing to do.