It’s truly an honor and a privilege to be joining my fellow “Sisters in Crime” on the Women of Mystery blog. My heartfelt gratitude to the talented writers for inviting me along; I’m thrilled to be here.
Nearing the first anniversary of the death of their only son, I wrote a letter to a former coworker and his wife. A handwritten letter, not a typed one. I lost my 37 year old brother in 2001, and I know how it feels when anniversaries approach, especially that first one. The man who lost his talented clarinetist son in a tragic car accident called me to say how touched they were. “No one writes handwritten letters anymore,” he said.
Afterward, I thought about some of the handwritten letters of my past.
In Mrs. Luciano’s fourth grade class at St. Patrick’s School in Huntington in 1970, we wrote letters to soldiers in Vietnam. Two soldiers responded, and I will never part with those letters.
During my teen years, I had as many as fifty pen pals. I remember the most letters I ever received in one day — fourteen. Most of my pen pals were fellow Osmond Brothers fans. Kindred spirits find a way to be together, I guess. Besides, what kid doesn’t like to receive mail?
In the late 1970s, I chose “Ethnic Studies” as one of my electives at Huntington High School, specifically for the long-term project: a family tree. Upon learning that my mom knew little of her Irish roots, she suggested that I write to her Aunt Mary.
Aunt Mary’s five-page response sparked a flame that’s been burning for over two decades. Genealogy became a passion for me, as well as my mom and my Uncle Jimmy. Our obsession has taken us to Ireland, Pennsylvania, and New York City; to libraries, cemeteries, and genealogy research centers — and to think it all started with a letter. It’s amazing how much we still glean from Aunt Mary’s letter.
In 1979, I wrote a letter to Andy Gibb asking him to take me to my prom. I never heard back; I guess he just didn’t want to be my everything.
My mom wrote to her Aunt Gert in 1980 in search of family photos. Aunt Gert wrote back to say that she had packed the photos away, “in a rare fit of domestic activity,” and wasn’t sure where they were.
Gert remarked, “I know one of these days they’ll come to light (like the Dead Sea Scrolls, Tut-Ank-Amen’s Tomb, Veronica’s Veil and Howard Hughes’ will), but at the moment I think it would take the combined efforts of the FBI, Scotland Yard and Interpol to give me the faintest clue. I know the day will come when suddenly my hand will touch a crumbling cardboard box and upon opening it and seeing the contents, I’ll stagger back and shriek, ‘Eureka!’, rush to the phone and dial your number and say, ‘It’s all yours, baby, come and get it.’ Until then, darling, bear with me, I beseech you.”
She could have written, “I’m not sure where they are, but when I find them, I’ll let you know,” but I’m so glad she didn’t. Aunt Gert’s letter is a gem.
Do you still write handwritten letters? Are there certain letters from your past that you won’t part with? Is it a lost art?
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