I have a great deal of letters written by family members. Mostly from my dad’s side, since my paternal grandmother kept everything. But I’ve recently gotten a new stack of letters to hold onto for posterity from my mom’s side of the family, and have gotten to know my great grandmother (my mom’s mom’s mom) a bit, after knowing almost nothing about her before. And even some about her mother.
It’s so great, to read their actual words written in their own hand. Always cursive, of course, but I grew up having to write in cursive in school, and deciphered countless letters and cards from my own grandmothers when I was a kid, so it’s no problem for me.
One letter by my great grandmother was written while she was flying across the country in the 1950s I think. It took many hours to make the journey, and they stopped at least once. And they flew so low (16,000 and 18,000 feet!) that she said it was dizzying to look straight down, and she could tell the hills apart from the flat bits. She said there was a chill because of the altitude. I’m guessing it wasn’t a pressurized plane! And she was writing to quell her anxiety, I believe.
Little things like that make family members real to me. I’ve seen photos, so I can match these things up some, and it’s so great to have a more complete picture of people I never met.
(Technically, I may have met this great grandmother, as she lived to be 90 and died when I was just about nine years old. But I have no personal memory of her.)
(I also just learned she is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery—Hollywood Hills, along with a ridiculous number of famous people. Neato.)
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