Another day in the countryside
© Another day in the countryside
Some time ago – which could be the day before yesterday, last month or 10 to 40 years ago – my sister found a book on writing letters to your grandchildren.
It was a bound booklet of envelopes, each with a page for writing a letter attached.
It was such a good idea that she bought me one.
I looked at this book for a few years, wondering what I was going to say to my grandson.
There were suggested topics: my past, his future, my opinions – it was all totally doable. But I wanted to do it right. I thought about it, reflected, until 2016.
Once written – it took me about a year to complete them all – the letters resided inside the book in a wooden box where I keep important papers.
We are now in 2022. My one and only grandson is 15 and I decided it was time to give him the letters.
He’s been here with me in Ramona for a month. We had a wonderful month spending time together.
We did all sorts of things, including trimming trees, learning to drive, making sauerkraut (which included harvesting cabbage from my garden), and even eating whole sauerkraut with mashed potatoes. (also harvested from my garden), shoot fireworks, make strawberry jam, buy clothes for school, and mow with my speedy zero-spin machine – not in exact order.
Did I say it was wonderful? It was! The best summer ever! I hope we can do it again and again, but in the meantime it is getting old, and other summer activities will be on the program.
Already, far too soon, it is time for him to return to California and to school.
“Here’s a bunch of letters I wrote to you,” I said as he packed his suitcase. “I don’t even remember what I wrote, but at the time I thought it was important, and I just realized I was writing them very carefully in cursive. and you were never taught to read cursive!
My great-grandmother Schubert used to write diaries, not letters. She regularly jotted down her thoughts—in German, in cursive.
Her antiquated handwriting is beautiful to see, but other than a first name, every once in a while no family member can read what she has written.
When her stepdaughter, Augusta, moved from the farm to the Ramona metropolis, she made a bonfire in the front yard and threw her stepmother’s unreadable journals into the fire.
As soon as she turned her back, my Aunt Gertie picked them up.
“They were important documents from the past,” she said, many years later, handing them to me. “You can have them.”
But I couldn’t read them.
Then I thought of my friend Michaela, who came from Austria to Kansas and who speaks German very well.
“Can you read this newspaper?” I asked, handing him the artifact.
She studied the pages carefully, squinting, sighing, then said, “I can’t translate. It’s a dialect that I don’t know, and with all these flourishes, I really can’t decipher it. Let it be, Pat, these are his private thoughts.
My daughter joined us for the last week of this summer vacation extravaganza. Free time is such a novelty for her that she automatically started organizing things.
“What are your goals for the next 12 months? she wanted to know.
“Staying alive,” I joked, avoiding his list.
After presenting the packet of letters I wrote to him, Dagfinnr said, “I guess my goal must be to learn to read cursive writing.”
“They really didn’t teach it at your school?” I asked, appalled.
And then, who writes more letters, besides me and a few of my faithful distant friends.
I still wrote letters to my grandson, but I did it on a computer and printed them out for him to read. Then, oblivious to his non-cursive disability, I wrote him 12 hard-to-read missives about life. When in the future, if ever, will he be able to read them?
Could it be that one day, many years later, he would hand that bundle of letters to his child and say, “Here is a family heirloom from your great-grandmother. These are letters she gave me the summer I was 15. Unfortunately, she was writing in cursive, which I couldn’t decipher, but she had carefully written her advice on living ‘another day in the countryside.