Sharing stories through letters


My great-aunt is a lover of books and frequent writer. Before her retirement, she had been an English teacher.

She is also an avid letter writer. Each day, she sends out a piece of mail. It helps her keep track of when the mail carrier has been by. However, the practice of sharing her stories in letters goes back long before it was a chore to check an empty mailbox.

I asked her some questions about her letter writing practices. Here is her response:

Aunt's reply

I learned how to read and write in the first grade, I believe. Mom read tons of books to my brother, Bill, and I prior to that time. I took over that job when I learned to read. Bill had two favorite books I must have read many times – the earlier one was a book about bears and later he couldn’t get enough of “Mr. Popper’s Penguins.”

My first writing experience were thank you notes, which needed to be written soon after the gifts were received as in Grandmother, Aunts & Uncles, Cousins, etc. It was also necessary for me to say more than thank you so I had to come up with something I liked about the gift and at least another paragraph as to what I was doing at the moment.

When I was 4 or 5, I began visiting two aunts for a week in the summer…More thank yous to write upon my return.

After I went off to college, I must write a weekly letter to my family without fail, and if I forgot, my next week’s allowance was not forthcoming so I rarely was late with a letter (only 3 cents in those days for a stamp).

After college and marrying and living in Connecticut for the next years, it became the habit of a lifetime as no matter how busy, I found time to write. Of course, no computers for email but phones, obviously, but calling long distance cost money and as a family, we rarely did that. Also, I’d rather write than call, as the phone and I are not friends.

I’ve always admired my aunt’s memory and storytelling ability. Studies often say if you write something down, you’re more apt to remember it. She is currently in her 80s, but her memory is very clear, as you can likely tell for this excerpt from her letter.

She has been documenting her life story for decades in her letters. I know I am grateful that she responds to me, since she still has great stories to tell.

This is the end of her letter, it is not particularly pertinent to letter writing, but it is one of those things that I do not think gets included in communication enough.

The snow and ice are melting swiftly with the long, full icicles mostly gone from the roof’s edge… The male cardinal is singing his spring song or mating song and that gives hope that spring is not too far away – I am ready, past ready.