This is a perfect time to reflect on love. With Valentine’s Day – the day for lovers – just days away, love letters provided the perfect palette. “On a day like today we pass the time away writing love letters in the sand.” When I was young and in love I remember hearing the soft mellow voice of Pat Boone croon the popular song, “Love Letters in the Sand.” What a nice thought that was. If you wrote something in the sand it was gone when the next wave came in. No one else had to see it. Well, that is not the kind of love letters I am talking about.
A couple weeks ago I came upon something that I forgot I had. One night I heard something fall off of the shelf in my bedroom closet. I guess I must have disturbed it when I put my Christmas things away. The next day I found a bunch of letters on the floor. I scooped some of them up to look at them. That was when I realized that I still had some old love letters that Dick wrote to me.
Further investigation yielded another tin of letters that I wrote to him. It was interesting to note that the postage at that time was just 5 cents. Of course, the annual wage was proportional. More money does not necessarily translate to a better standard of living. When the paychecks go up so do the prices. Dick wrote to me at four different addresses in the course of a little more than two years. We met at the time that I was graduating from college and moving to take a job out of town. The letters that I had written were addressed to three different addresses.
Now you may think farmers do not move around. My farm boy did because he was a member of the National Guard and had a few years left of his obligation. I wrote to him when he went to summer camp each year.
These letters provided entertainment for me on a couple of those cold days when I did not leave home. First, I read the letters that I wrote. When I came to the end of those I went to the ones that he wrote to me.
I learned many things that I had forgotten by reading these letters. My husband and I met by accident or maybe it was divine providence. We were as different as could be, but something just clicked. When he wrote about the farm he had to explain everything because all of it was new to me. I had no idea how big an acre was or even the difference between a cow and a heifer. If he thought he impressed me by talking about the farm acreage it was all lost on me.
The part that really hit home was how quickly we fell in love – in spite of our differences. By the time six months rolled around we were each signing off with love. We were also planning our future together. If you would have asked me I might have said that we were in love after a year, but no, it was much shorter than that.
Each of us had been in numerous relationships before so we were not unfamiliar with the process. I had called a halt to some of the relationships, but I had also been “dumped.” I knew hurt and so did he. Communication was the key. We talked and talked. We talked about everything and anything. Our time together was precious. It did not matter what we did, we had a good time. I learned to be content while he did his farm chores. Sometimes I went to the barn with him and carried milk. If I did that I noticed a faint smell in my locker at school for a day or two because I had to wear the same coat.
I learned a great deal about farming as I learned about my farmer. People often think farmers are ignorant. I recall some girls making fun after my engagement picture was in the newspaper. I certainly did not feel short-changed. Even though my husband never attended college he was a wonderful business man. He knew how to run the farm and how to make a living at it. Farming was a great way to raise our family. The children had the privilege of helping their dad and learning not only responsibility, but about life in general. Some of my love letters from Dick had drawings on them. He would draw a picture while he thought about what to write. Often he wrote about the farm because that was his daily life and his responsibilities. I had forgotten about all of the pictures drawn just for me. When I shredded the old letters I kept the drawings and made copies of them so the children and grandchildren could see what their father/grandfather did. My granddaughter was sad when I said I shredded the letters, but it was time. He has been gone twelve years and these letters were written fifty years ago. I told my granddaughter that the letters were something special meant only for grandpa and me.
As I read them I could often recall the event that was being written about. At that time I was not keeping a diary so that was my only record.
What will young people have today? Even my daughter does not have love letters. She and her husband never lived that far apart. Today texts and e-mails take the place of letters. I cannot help but think that this generation will have no tangible lasting memories. There will be no special cards or letters for them to read fifty years later. They will have all been swept away by technology.
As I shredded my memories I remembered a past experience where I burned letters from another boyfriend. That process allowed me to realize how much I was in love with my farmer who lived just over the border. I was fortunate to have received more than one set of love letters!
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at email@example.com