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Sealing History
copyright Mary Palmer Nowland 2003


How does a woman create her own family history? I suggest one letter at a time. I don't mean a, b, or c, but a stamped envelope with a heartfelt message inside! When was the last time you sent a letter to your grandmother? Or a little note your daughter could find in her lunch box? No time?
The world doesn't appear to be slowing down, so it is up to you to relax, brew a fresh cup, and put pen to paper. Just think of all the stories with letters as an important catalyst for life-altering events: people finding letters packed away in an old shoebox that bring new light and forgiveness to an old grudge; letters with recipes still inside, waiting to be baked; envelopes faintly perfumed by dusty rose petals held safe between the pages.
The women in my family have taught me the value of staying in touch. It all  began when I was quite young. George, the mailman would pull up in front of the house, and we would race to meet him. There might be a letter for me. At the very least, Mom would read us her letters from various aunts and cousins.
Letters were also a way of showing good manners. Every time I received a gift, I was instructed on how to write a thank-you note. At Christmas I tried to make my little gift tags by hand and I carefully practiced my beginner's cursive on my birthday party invitations.
When I became more proficient with my handwriting, Mom bought me my very own stationary, complete with fancy sealing wax and a filigreed "M" and "P" to press into the seal. I started to collect pens, sharpen my pencils, and decorate the margins of my letters with India ink. I took my correspondence seriously.
Our mother always wrote a newsletter to include in our Christmas cards. It was thrilling to read a whole paragraph about me, telling of my 4-H ribbons and piano lessons. Reading my accomplishments on paper meant I was important, not only to Mom, but to everyone in her address book.
I remember sending postcards home from Girl Scout Camp up at Camp Esther Applegate along the shore of Lake of the Woods. Home was only an hour's drive but the act of mailing a note meant I was a long way from family. Better stay in touch so they wouldn't worry.
A few years back, Aunt Roxie and Uncle Marv handed me a large paper bag, pronouncing me the keeper of the "Nana and Pop letters." Written in 1912, they are the beginning of my grandparent's amazing love story. They drip with polite adoration and respect.
You can create your own family love stories, handed down over the years in the form of letters.  Dear Daughter, I am so impressed with your sewing projects...Dear Grandmother, I miss our little chats. Let's have one now... Dear Cousin, Why don't you come for the weekend and we can watch old home movies? Are you full of letters never written and regretfully never sent?
If your life feels too busy to sit down and write a letter to a woman you love, your regrets will pile up and your connections will dwindle. Take a moment to jot a note, lick a stamp, and put the flag up. Before you know it, you'll be racing your kids to the mailbox to see who has taken the time to write back.
Don't forget to save those letters for someone in the future. They will want to know something of their family history, handwritten with love and sealed with a kiss.

 

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Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM  Pacific


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