Write a Letter!

Thursday, June 01, 2023

I sat down, intending to share on notes I’d made the night before, notes about the seasons in our lives. But my mind wandered off. You see, I’m writing this post on Memorial Day and that holiday takes my heart to many places, eventually coming home to my parents. 

My father was one of the “Greatest Generation,” serving in the Army in World War II. He was stationed in Germany towards the very end of the war and found himself, as an excellent typist with a knowledge of the German language, transcribing for the Nuremberg trials. 

But it’s my mother I’m thinking of today, her and all the loved ones left behind at home during those war years. My parents didn’t meet till after Dad returned from his service but she had two brothers, both of whom served, too. My mom was close to her brothers since her father died when they were very young. How hard it must’ve been for her widowed mother to have both sons away!

Fortunately, there were letters, lots of letters. And those letters were precious—and saved. I know this because I have one of the letters my mom sent to her brother, John. He’d appeared in a photograph that was in Life magazine and that was exciting stuff! She said how proud she was of him and how she’d been unable to find a copy of the issue to buy so she’d torn the photo out of a copy in the Student Center and pasted it on her mirror. (Normally, I would be aghast at that behavior but special circumstances, right?) 

She wrote about his birthday, about football at Vanderbilt, and people from home. Between the lines, there was love, and of course, support and encouragement. That the Army would be a distant memory someday, and that when he returned he’d “pick right up” where he left off. 

He did return, and so did her younger brother, picking up their lives, marrying, working, having lots of kids. The war years did seem a distant memory, not often talked about (I never did see that photo of my uncle who appeared in Life). But I’m so grateful for the letters saved and cherished. My mother’s words bring to life those long ago days and places, and honestly, I can hear her voice every time I read that letter. 

Write a letter! To brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, moms or dads, friends far away or those nearby. It doesn’t have to be a special occasion; the letter will make it special. And yes, I’ve stood on the letter-writing soapbox before and maybe you’re tired of my near brow-beating. But if I can’t get writers to lead the letter-writing campaign, who’ll do it? 

Besides, it’s the gift that keeps on giving and doesn’t cost anything but your time. Because maybe, like me reading my mom’s letter, your loved one will read your words thirty, forty, fifty years from now and smile all day, thinking of you.

So write a letter, now, today! You can thank me later—just send a note!


Sue Bradford Edwards said...

What a wonderful idea! I've been thinking about writing a letter to my nephew and his wife after getting to meet their daughter. This is the nudge I need to do it.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Oh Cathy, I love the story of your parents, and what a gift to have those letters! :) I bet they are such an inspiration and encapsulate that moment in time. A few novels that blog-toured with WOW drew inspiration from family WWII letters, and I always thought it would be a creative idea to try, even for a short story. I still have some of my mom's letters written in Kanji that I need to have translated. My father missed WWII by a hair, but was stationed in Germany and worked on twin forties, those tank guns. What I love about letters is we save them, unlike email, and they can include drawings, which I include on all of mine. :)

Cathy C. Hall said...

Sue, I hope you've penned that letter. I know they'll treasure it!

And Ang, please get those letters translated--I've never heard of Kanji and already I'm drawn in to that story. I love epistolary novels and short stories...and one of my fave programs is As Time Goes By, a BBC program with Dame Judy Dench. The premise is based on a letter never delivered during wartime.

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