Lately, I’ve been musing about the degree to which talents or interests are inherited, especially those that lead to a career. That led me to thinking about the writers in my own family.
These were not cards or short notes, but long missives composed in cramped handwriting on both sides of at least a half-dozen pages of stationery. Ten sheets was probably the average. And Louise was a busy farmer’s wife and entrepreneur who raised four children during the Depression and war time.
These letters were packed with information about people and places I never knew, yet her chatty, informal writing style won me over. Sometimes a paragraph continued for two pages and I would read breathlessly to the end, amazed at her ability to carry on with one thought for so long. I also loved her short-cuts: esp., tho’, tho’t (thought), and more. I admired her ability to keep track of the details of the lives of a large extended family. I was always amused at her intense interest in the weather, and marveled at how she actually made it sound interesting.
Her specialty was obituaries but she occasionally contributed small articles about her family. I would often get clippings with her letters. Once or twice, I was featured in her articles, as when I graduated from high school all the way out in Oakland, California. When she wasn’t able to write any more, her daughter, Emma Lou, took up the obituaries and occasional family news item.
She always talked a lot, too. I mean A LOT. Emma Lou is from that mold, too–cheerful, chatty, and always keenly interested in what everyone else is doing. She writes shorter letters and more cards, but at 80+ she is extremely active on email. I applaud her ability to embrace technology and keep in touch with family and friends far and near.
No novelists or professional journalists, and not even an English teacher. Just average people who loved to put pen to paper to “keep in touch,” honor the dead, or show their pride in family.