LETTERing in Writing

Great MawMaw Melvin's Letters to Fred

I’ve had an interest in my family history for quite a few years now. Over the course of 3-5 years I have traced back our ancestry to our “home” country on all sides, did the whole DNA test, and reached out to distant relatives in the genealogy community that shared the same passion and common goal as myself. Through my research I found war heroes, newspaper headlines highlighting my family, and passenger lists from when my family sailed in to Ellis Island and began their life in America. I shared a new excitement with every record I found and the information was endless. However, one of the greatest discoveries I made was not through a census, passenger, or war draft record, but in an envelope that my family received after the passing of my great grandmother. In that envelope were farmledgers, WW2 ration books, and about 100 letters.

Those letters were addressed to my great grandfather from my great grandmother while she attended college at the University of Kentucky from 1928-1932. Wow! Best discovery ever. I was fortunate enough to know my great grandmother when I was a child, but it was the neatest thing to read about her college experience and have her personality shine through in those letters. Regardless of the 85 year difference from when her experiences took place to when I read about them I found myself drawing on many of the commonalities that I found we share. Our feelings about college are mutual, many college activities “back then” are still enjoyed today, and the struggles of adapting to a new “independently-dependent” lifestyle was prevalent in the 20th Century as it is in the 21st Century.

I found these letters the summer before I headed off to college and I pondered the thought of doing the same…..writing a letter home every week of college. Here I am, 75 letters in and I don’t regret it one bit. Some weeks writing a letter slips my mind and I tell myself I’ll just write “extra” next week. However this never holds true. Somewhere in the process of contemplating writing a letter home, I always find myself with a pen in hand and a stamp nearby.

I’ll admit I’m a little dramatic in my letters, but my parents look past it and find them quite humorous. Besides the joy it brings to my parent’s mailbox each week, it gives me the opportunity to reflect on my week. I think about everything positive that has happened, build on the negative, and assess what I’ve accomplished and what I need to accomplish in the week ahead.

It’s a priceless treasure for my parents today and treasure for me in the future. I’ll be able to open up 100+ letters and relive the emotions that I was feeling when various events occurred. So while writing letters is a lost art for many, it is alive and well for this college student!

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