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Handwritten is a place and space for pen and paper. We showcase things in handwriting, but also on handwriting. And so, you'll see dated letters and distant postcards alongside recent studies and typed stories. 

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Filtering by Tag: Letter

A Surprise Wedding and the 52 Postcards That Followed • Carly Butler Verheyen

Brett Rawson

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BY CARLY BUTLER VERHEYEN

Nothing about our wedding was ordinary.  In fact, that morning I woke up thinking it was the day of our engagement party, but I got the surprise of a lifetime after reading a letter from my fiancé telling me that our engagement party that was planned for that day was actually our wedding day.  While I was away for 6 months retracing the steps of my Grandmother's love letters in London, England, he was at home planning our big day.  We had a date set the following year, so we were planning things together here and there, but little did I know that things we were planning were actually being moved to an earlier date: the date of our surprise wedding.  

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The surprise didn't end that night. The guests of our surprise wedding filled out postcards that had a number from 1 – 52 in the corner, and every week of our 1st year of marriage, a vintage postcard from one of our wedding guests came in the mail. Some of the guests took them home with them to fill out and send themselves, while others wrote a message that day or night and left it in a mailbox by the end of the night for our good friend to mail to us each week. 

Some had marriage advice, some had memories of our wedding day, and others had drunken messages of love and well wishes. It was such a treat to feel the love from our wedding guests all year long.

A few of our faves are below. 

I Want You To Stand Up With Me, Mom. Are You In?

Brett Rawson

BY HANDWRITTEN

The killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille, and the subsequent shooting in Dallas that resulted in the deaths of five police officers, have left us lost. We are torn, because we are dividing. It doesn't take very long to see these divisions, both online and offline. It leaves many people thinking, time and again: What (more) can we do? And what (more) can we say? 

But amidst the think pieces, protests, and polarizing opinions, a single letter has broken through, offering a new source of support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Meet Letters for Black Lives, which began as a multilingual resource for Asian-Americans who wanted to talk to their immigrant parents about anti-Blackness and police violence, but has grown to include messaging for Latinx and African immigrants as well as people living in Canada and Europe. The letter, which was initially written in English, has now been translated into 30+ languages, with over 300 contributing writers and translators. The common goal?

Speaking empathetically, kindly, and earnestly to our elders about why Black lives matter to us provides a framework for discussing issues of anti-Blackness and police violence with immigrant parents.

Why the handwritten letter?

We wanted to write a letter — not a think piece or an explainer or a history lesson — because changing hearts and minds in our community requires time and trust, and is best shaped with dialogue.

To follow along or join, see the links and resources below. We have posted the full English letter below. If you write your own, no matter the language, send it to us and we'll feature it on Handwritten and our social media channels. Help us spread these messages of love, and be a part of the unity:

www.lettersforblacklives.com  
Letters for Black Lives on Facebook 
Public Google Doc 

#BlackLivesMatter

Mom, Dad, Uncle, Auntie, Grandfather, Grandmother:       

We need to talk.

You may not have grown up around people who are Black, but I have. Black people are a fundamental part of my life: they are my friends, my classmates and teammates, my roommates, my family. Today, I’m scared for them. 

This year, the American police have already killed more than 500 people. Of those, 25% have been Black, even though Black people make up only 13% of the population. Earlier this week in Louisiana, two White police officers killed a Black man named Alton Sterling while he sold CDs on the street. The very next day in Minnesota, a police officer shot and killed a Black man named Philando Castile in his car during a traffic stop while his girlfriend and her four-year-old daughter looked on. Overwhelmingly, the police do not face any consequences for ending these lives.

This is a terrifying reality that some of my closest friends live with every day. 

Even as we hear about the dangers Black Americans face, our instinct is sometimes to point at all the ways we are different from them. To shield ourselves from their reality instead of empathizing. When a policeman shoots a Black person, you might think it’s the victim’s fault because you see so many images of them in the media as thugs and criminals. After all, you might say, we managed to come to America with nothing and build good lives for ourselves despite discrimination, so why can’t they?

I want to share with you how I see things.

It’s true that we face discrimination for being Asian in this country. Sometimes people are rude to us about our accents, or withhold promotions because they don’t think of us as “leadership material.” Some of us are told we’re terrorists. But for the most part, nobody thinks “dangerous criminal” when we are walking down the street. The police do not gun down our children and parents for simply existing.

This is not the case for our Black friends. Many Black people were brought to America as slaves against their will. For centuries, their communities, families, and bodies were ripped apart for profit. Even after slavery, they had to build back their lives by themselves, with no institutional support—not allowed to vote or own homes, and constantly under threat of violence that continues to this day.

In fighting for their own rights, Black activists have led the movement for opportunities not just for themselves, but for us as well. Black people have been beaten, jailed, even killed fighting for many of the rights that Asian Americans enjoy today. We owe them so much in return. We are all fighting against the same unfair system that prefers we compete against each other. 

When someone is walking home and gets shot by a sworn protector of the peace—even if that officer’s last name is Liang—that is an assault on all of us, and on all of our hopes for equality and fairness under the law. 

For all of these reasons, I support the Black Lives Matter movement. Part of that support means speaking up when I see people in my community—or even my own family—say or do things that diminish the humanity of Black Americans in this country. I am telling you this out of love, because I don’t want this issue to divide us. I’m asking that you try to empathize with the anger and grief of the fathers, mothers, and children who have lost their loved ones to police violence. To empathize with my anger and grief, and support me if I choose to be vocal, to protest. To share this letter with your friends, and encourage them to be empathetic, too. 

As your child, I am proud and eternally grateful that you made the long, hard journey to this country, that you've lived decades in a place that has not always been kind to you. You've never wished your struggles upon me. Instead, you’ve suffered through a prejudiced America, to bring me closer to the American Dream.

But I hope you can consider this: the American Dream cannot exist for only your children. We are all in this together, and we cannot feel safe until ALL our friends, loved ones, and neighbors are safe. The American Dream that we seek is a place where all Americans can live without fear of police violence. This is the future that I want—and one that I hope you want, too.

With love and hope,
Your children

An Informal Memoir • Joselyn Smith-Greene

Brett Rawson

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BY JOSELYN SMITH-GREENE

A short time ago at an estate sale, I saw a woman excited at the sight of a bunch of handwritten letters. Quickly, she grabbed them. I didn’t get it. How could these unrelated letters be of any significance to anyone other than the sender and the sendee? 

This experience prompted me to revisit a box of letters that I had saved. Many of them were written by my childhood friend, Patricia, and my college friend, Loretta. The exchange between Patricia and I began when I went away to college and she was in her senior year of high school. Loretta and I attended Rhode Island College together. Our letter exchange occurred during school breaks and summers. After I transferred to a different school in my junior year, our letter writing escalated. Long distance calling was cost prohibitive in the late 70’s while a stamp cost a mere 13 cents; writing letters was the affordable way to keep in touch with distant friends and family.

Each letter was a continuation of their life’s story. As I read them, they were an immediate relief, and a short distraction from the frenzied college life. Some were quite lengthy, some were written over multiple days, and some required a second read to make sure I didn’t miss a thing. All, however, warranted a return letter, with the hope that a letter waiting in their mailboxes would uplift their day as well. 

I had a blast rereading their letters, laughing and shaking my head with more feeling and genuineness than any present day LOL’s and SMH’s. So when Patricia recently mentioned that she had little recollection of her college years, I immediately thought to myself, “I can fix that!” And so I did. I returned the letters she had written me, thereby gifting her, her younger self. 

I had the pleasure of gifting both Patricia and Loretta the letters they had written me all those years ago. They are the most special gifts that I have ever given anyone. Since they cannot be duplicated or monetized, their value is beyond measure. I’m glad I kept their letters, a handwritten, informal memoir about everything they were thinking, feeling, and doing in their own words, documented by them.  

With a simple touch of a key today, we send digital communications off to linger in the abyss of cyberspace. It is difficult to re-experience an email. But tangible letters can so quickly bring back a distant joy. They are precious evidence of the lives we live.

You can find more from Joselyn on her site: http://meaningfulremnants.com.

A Legacy of Travel • A Conversation with Christian Corollo, Past Present Project

Brett Rawson

BY CARLY BUTLER

After crossing paths with Christian on Instagram, I could tell that Christian and I had a lot in common. Not only was he recreating photos that his grandfather had taken 30 years earlier, but there were also ties to the grandmother's handwritten journals that made his journey so fascinating. Photographer and travel blogger, Christian created the Past Present Project and I had the chance to ask him a few questions about what kind of an impact these family heirlooms have had on his life. 

CARLY: How did you come across this heirloom?

CHRISTIAN: It all started in August of 2012 during a visit with my 99-year-old grandmother in Florida. After telling her about my relatively new love of travel, she showed me the travel journals from all of the trips she and my grandfather had taken between 1973 and 2003. I was fascinated by her detailed accounts of their journeys, including names of people they met and exact locations of places they stayed, and eventually had the courage to ask if I could keep such a treasured possession. Knowing that her journals would not be of interest to anyone after she passed away, she was delighted to hand them over to someone who would treasure them beyond her. I left Florida with over 20 of her thirty journals.

CARLY: What does it mean to you to have this piece of handwritten work?

CHRISTIAN: I could sense how important these journals are to my grandmother filled with memories of moments shared with my grandfather, experiences that come flooding back when she reads the words contained inside, and a legacy of travel. She has expressed this legacy of travel to me on many occasions and how proud my grandfather would be that I’m carrying it on in our family. She has also told me that their trips together are when they were the happiest. This is why I’ve felt the conviction to not only continue the legacy of travel they began, but share the words and moments of the most treasured times of their life.

CARLY: What has it inspired in you?

CHRISTIAN: Little did I know in 2012 that with the combination of her journals and my grandfather’s travel photographs, I would embark on my own journey of retracing their steps and stand in the same places they did so long ago. If not for her travel journals, I never would have discovered the exact locations of so many of my grandfather’s photographs or known the names and met for myself the people in his images.

Valhalla Pier in South Lake Tahoe, California | June 1981 & May 2015

Valhalla Pier in South Lake Tahoe, California | June 1981 & May 2015

Excerpt from my grandmother’s travel journal on June 9th, 1981: “Walked down to the lake – a vast expanse of quietly lapping water, brilliant sun, and a small sand beach before the ‘Jeffrey’ pine woods.”

Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California | April 1979 & May 2011

Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California | April 1979 & May 2011

Excerpt from my grandmother’s travel journal on April 27th, 1979: “There was an earthquake at that time in the middle of San Francisco! We didn’t feel it – were much too busy finding our way through town to the Presidio, a big military reservation. The scenic route lead right through it, to Fort Point, directly under the Golden Gate Bridge. Going on along the shore-drive, high above the blinding shimmering-white sea against the sun, along funny colorful small houses.

To see more of the Past Present Project, visit Christian's lovely website: www.pastpresentproject.com.

The Keepers • Sharon W. Huget

Brett Rawson

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BY SHARON W. HUGET

As I go through three months worth of papers that have accumulated in piles trying to put the keepers into files, I find the letter my Auntie Mary Ann wrote in early January. It was a response to our annual family Christmas card. It immediately catches me and I bring it to the table so I can re-read it over my Sunday tea. Ah Sundaya day for quiet, un-hurried, sit down tea, sipped slowly while still hot.

The delicate handwriting with it's curves and fancy loops echoes the scalloped edged stationary, eggshell blue with pink roses framing the page. A what's happening letterabout life and change and questions about the happenings in our lives as my own kids grow up and we grow older. 
 
It has been years since all my cousins were at her place searching for coloured hard-boiled Easter eggs hidden in corners of the basement, around storage boxes and in my uncle's work boots. Christmas memories of cousins relegated to playing in the basement and giggle fits as the pack of us are ordered to sleep, squished wonderfully side by side, sleeping bag to sleeping bag.  I remember the sounds from the downstairs guest room and hearing the late night footsteps of clean up in the kitchen, lingering laughter of adult siblings and in-laws visiting upstairs and the early morning hurried stomps of getting breakfast out and the roast in before dressing in Sunday clothes and heading for church. So long agoand yet, the familiar script has brought her close again for a moment of cherished remembering.
 
It’s a keepera piece of caring and love from my dear Aunt Mary Ann.

Externally Obvious, Internally Mysterious • Minakshi Choudhary

Brett Rawson

BY MINAKSHI CHOUDHARY

When my phone rang and I heard the voice of my community manager on the other side, I was shocked. There was an inland letter waiting to be received by me: that three-fold piece of paper, externally obvious, internally mysterious. 

While I dressed up and on the way to post office, all the neurons of my brain were ringing bells to deafen me with thoughts pouring in and pouring out. Mostly thinking, what might have provoked someone to write a letter to me in this world of emails and phones? Turning the form section of that envelope made me more nervous. My hands were frozen with sweat, unable to unglue the piece of paper. 

The letter was from my nephew studying in fourth grade in a fully residential school. Between reading the from address and ungluing the letter, I came to know how fast our brain processes and how far it can travel within seconds. 

As soon as I opened it, I was all tears seeing this sweet little sender just wanting me to know his address as he left to boarding school. He was under impression that I hadn't written to him because I didn't know his address. This innocence touched me to the core, and at that moment, I wished to hug my sweet little nephew and tell him how we elders are so busy solving the pain of ourselves created by ourselves.

Now, when that sweet little boy is grown up and busy finishing his degrees, I believe he might have forgotten about this episode of his life. We all fall into this trap of forgetting, though our best friend in the form of black and white text always makes our lives colourful with varied emotion rewinded and reversed on timelines. 

He Just Smiled, Said Hello, and Went On His Way • Lora Ackermann

Brett Rawson

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BY LORA ACKERMANN

While searching for any of the many examples of handwritten cards and notes from my family, I came across a journal of mine. This is an incredibly special journal, entirely handwritten, spanning from my first of what would eventually be four ovarian surgeries (over the course of many years) in August of 1992, through the death of my maternal grandmother in March of 1995, her husband, my grandfather in May of 1995, and ending with my soon-to-be wedding in October of 1995. These pages hold such a roller coaster of euphoria and pain. So many entries that touch my heart, soul, and spirit, drawing memories from places long forgotten to the routines of daily life. So many memories bringing new pains of loss and journeyed paths now closed. 

There truly is something to say about the handwritten page. There’s a certain comfort, a warmth, as though the lines are reaching forward, surrounding me in a hug, and drawing me in. As I re-read some of these entries, I can detect, in the formation of the letters, the slant of the words, the stains on the pages, changes in mood, emotion, stress level, time management, and so many other delicate strands that make up these layered memories; delicacies that would be but lost in simplified print. The handwriting, like the musical score of a movie, tells its very own story; separate from the worded memories they so eagerly record. 

Even after reading these pieces of my life from those years, pieces that now seem centuries away from reality, the entry on those first pages still strikes me the most. I had only been home from my first major surgery at age 20 for a day or two. Having received the good news that what was thought to be ovarian cancer wasn’t, I was free to heal and live my life in gratitude. I had a renewed sense of awe and appreciation for the little things life tended to toss haphazardly in my path and it showed in this entry. 

August 29, 1992

…..I just returned from a walk around the block—oh what memories lie in some of the houses around here—not just my own. I can look at Elizabeth’s house, or Suzy’s house, or LouAnne’s, and still see inside, 12-13 years ago….’youngins’ they’d call us. I see Liz and myself in her room, making stickers w/ double-sided tape—we made them out of just about anything—wrapping paper, pictures, things we’d colored, etc.

I see Suzy and I in her room—so pink—pink carpet, bedspread, walls, bright pink, light pink—if ever there was a pink room it was Suzy’s. I see the laundry chute and the poster of ‘Frank Poncherello’ from the TV show, “CHIPS” above her bed. (We had a crush on him, though I liked his partner better.) I see Suzy & I sitting on the floor in her ‘play room’ eating Fruitloops from the box and watching “Emergency 911” (or something like that)—she always said that one of the men was her daddy—They did look alike and for a while I believed her, too! 

I see LouAnne & I in her room playing w/Barbie dolls—she had a loft bed with a yellow carpet underneath. 

I also see inside another house down the street; a brown house next to the Woolsey’s and an elderly woman who used to live there alone. Unfortunately, I don’t remember her name—I wish I did. She used to read to me and she helped teach me to read so that when I was old enough—so to speak, I often read books to her. She was a very kind woman. I wonder how she faired after she moved. I was too young to remember why she moved—family reasons I suppose. I missed her for quite some time. I think sometimes I still do. Perhaps. 

I find that at times I even miss ‘Joe.’ ‘Joe’ was a man who ever since I could remember walked every day. Twice a day he passed our house. ‘Joe’ wasn’t his real name. I don’t know what it is actually. ‘Joe’ was a friendly man who always had a wonderful smile to give any passerby—anyone at all. I think he had a stroke or heart attack. I think he may still be alive, but he doesn’t walk around here anymore. Perhaps he moved; perhaps he just doesn’t walk anymore. ‘Joe’ never corrected us in regard to his name—he just smiled, said hello, & went on his way—leaving smiles on our faces for a long time after. I really did think his name was ‘Joe’ until I was about 15 or 16 when Mom told us differently. She told us his real name, but I still call him ‘Joe.’ Perhaps it’s ‘Joe’ that I owe, in part, my smiling fetish to. Perhaps.

Even typing up these wordssuch layered memories; memories of people who touched my life, beneath memories of writing the entry itself, beneath those of healing, speaking volumes in the spaces between the letters, the lines between the lines; you know the onesthe ones that speak to our hearts, pulling in our soul’s deepest comforts, the ones that can dry a dampened spirit or bring light to the darkest corners. Yes, so many layers that can only be fully appreciated to the depths they desire in their original, handwritten form. 

Today, I journal, too. Sometimes I type. Other times I dictate. But many a time, I pick up my pen, one of the many paper journals my amazing friends have gifted me recently, find a quiet space all my own, and, even for just a few blessed moments, I disappear into the notes of the score, the layers of the letters, the spaces between the words and lines, and the hidden pleasures and soul-soothing rhythms found only when pen, from hand to page, journeys forth.

The One Who Wrote Back • Jim Landwehr

Brett Rawson

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BY JIM LANDWEHR

It was writing that brought us together. 

In 1986, I moved from my hometown of St. Paul Minnesota to Waukesha, Wisconsin just outside of Milwaukee for a new job. My brother Rob was also living away from home as a student in upstate New York. He and I wrote for a period of time and in one of his letters to me, he included letters from three of his female friends on his dorm floor. He’d told them I had just moved to Waukesha and didn’t really know anyone and that he thought it would brighten my spirits to receive some letters from them.

I don't remember exactly what each of the three had to say. Most of the letters were introductory in nature and seemed like honest attempts to be nice and cure me of my homesick loneliness. They were all away from their families as well, and we were all close in age, so had music, books and college life in common to talk about.

I was, of course, flattered that 3 women would take the time to write, so I wrote each of them individual letters back. Only one wrote back. 

For a year and a half.

Donna and I became 20th century pen pals of sorts. This was before the age of e-mail, faxes, texting and Skype. Long distance calls were expensive. Postage for a letter was about a quarter.

So we wrote, and we wrote, and we wrote. Short letters, long letters, letters about the trials of college and a new job, and roommates, and philosophy and religion, family, music, and books. We shared joys, concerns, doubts, beliefs and bad jokes. I sometimes took my writing to silly mediums like writing on napkins or the back of maps, just to keep it interesting. One of the things I recall her liking was my "Random Observations" which covered most subjects under the sun. Near the end of our writing things got a little spicier and flirtatious, neither of us knowing what the other would think, but daring to "go there" nonetheless.

Someone once said that writing is not a bad way to get to know someone – to become friends through writing before pursuing a relationship. I know it was true for me as it was sometimes easier to write things from the heart than it was to say them to someone I hardly knew.

Then one day she called. She said she was thinking about paying a visit and wondered what I'd think? I, of course, said I would love to see her. Both of us knew it would likely change our relationship forever.

And, man, did it ever.

I greeted her at the airport with a single red rose. We went to dinner at the Chancery and out to see the movie "Light Years" at the coolest theatre in Milwaukee, the Oriental. On the way home, "our song" came on the radio in the car, oddly enough, because it wasn't a big top 40 hit. When we got home we stayed up late and talked, and talked.

During the summer of 1989 she did an internship in Brookfield Wisconsin, which enabled us to try dating without five states between us. We were engaged that summer and married on June 16th, 1990. This past year we celebrated our twenty-fifth anniversary.

Looking back, it’s hard to say how this courtship would have played out in these modern times. Email, Skype and texting seem so impersonal compared to the anticipation of a letter from across the country. My wife saved every letter I sent her. In a fit of cleaning I threw most of hers out just before we were married. I managed to find a number from her that are post-engagement, but everything else is lost in the physical sense.  What remains, are the memories and feelings of that time. I still cherish a handwritten letter from anyone. It is a lost art, one that we pursued with a passion so long ago. It’s my feeling that the emotional outpouring that goes into a letter is felt on the other end in a mystical way that is lost in an electronic medium. 

I do know that it worked something special for us. To this day she says that my words were what attracted her to me. There must have been something in hers that drew me to her, as well.

It’s amazing what one simple letter can become.  

You Show Me Hard Work Like No One Else • Andres, 4th Grader

Brett Rawson

When we brought the story and letters from Deh'Subz, Afghanistan into 4th grade classrooms in Brooklyn, a magnetic chamber of energy opened, and we walked away that day thinking this: perhaps we should all be a little bit more child-like, and less child-ish. These 4th grade students are role models for the future, making us here at Handwritten think that perhaps we should be leading letter-writing sessions for the politicians.

Below are forty-one of the letters written, which we will be showcased at Pen + Brush on Saturday, March 5th, for our Handwriting Gala.

Do you want us to come visit your classroom and teach a letter-writing lesson? Get in touch. We customize the curriculum to your needs. Email us at info@handwrittenwork.com.

Some People Live a Whole Lifetime, and They Never Learn to Love the Rain • Adrienne Pieroth

Brett Rawson

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BY ADRIENNE PIEROTH

I received this letter towards the end of my freshman year in college. I was away from my hometown of Denver, Colorado, attending Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. It had been a year of adjustments for me — some good, some challenging — like most 18 year-olds spending their first long period of time away from home. My mother had always been the center of my life, the touchstone I would return to over and over again for comfort, love, a hug, a laugh, or a cup of tea and a much-needed chat. My mother was British and had me late in life the at 39 years old.

Perhaps it was her older, wiser years that made her such a solid and grounded figure in my life. If you asked me what defined the word “home” for me, I would say without hesitation, my Mum. While being away from the comforting home and life she had created for me was difficult at first — her care packages and letters she sent each week made all the difference. Most of the letters were about daily stuff — what was happening at home, with my Dad, or how the cats were doing. But towards the end of the year, this letter arrived. I knew it was special from the minute I opened it. I had no way of knowing that less than five years later, I would be sharing the words in this letter as part of the eulogy I gave at her funeral.  

Throughout my high school years my mother battled a rare form of cancer. During those years, I lost track of the number of surgeries, and the radiation and chemotherapy treatments.  But all the while, I never once remember her complaining, or asking “why me?” Perhaps the fact that my mother grew up in England during World War II, where nights spent in bomb shelters, rations and stories of sacrifice and bravery defined her youth. All I knew was that my mother had incredible strength, optimism, and not for one minute did she ever believe she wouldn’t survive her battle with cancer. 

When I first read it, the part of the letter that struck me most was that she was proud of me. My mother always told me she loved me and how proud she was of me, but it was something different to see it in words, written on a page, in her beautiful handwriting — handwriting, by the way, I couldn’t read until I was nearly ten. My mother had been a secretary and knew shorthand, so her writing was a combination of cursive and shorthand in a style all it’s own. 

Years later, at her funeral, it was her last words that spoke to me most, and the ones I shared with family and friends gathered to say goodbye. They were: 

...we have to have some grey days in our lives in order to appreciate the bright sunny ones, and we have to make the best of them. I can’t help thinking how wonderful it is that at your young age you seemed to have learned this. Some people live a whole lifetime, Adrienne, and they never learn to love the rain.

If I learned to love the rain, I learned from my mother’s example. Looking back, I wonder which of her grey days she was remembering as she wrote those words. The day I read those words as part of her eulogy was the greyest day of my life to date, even 26 years later, but the brightness of her love and the memories of my time with her outshine the rain. Whenever I want to remember this, I need only to open the envelope that contains my mother’s beautiful words of love and support to be reminded. 

April 29th, 1985

My Dear Adrienne,

I am looking forward so much to having you home for the summer. To hear the front door open & to hear you say, “Hi it’s me.” Your dad & I have missed your very much since you went off to college but we know this is the first stage of our daughter’s independence. We love you very much & we are so very proud of you. We know you have worked long & hard in all of your classes & it’s been a struggle, so many times wanting to go out & have fun, or go to a party, but knowing that you have homework to do and that the studies come first.  

You have always been able to appreciate the small things in life, Adrienne – a diamond ring – a new 28oz – a trip around the world! So just kidding, I really mean the small & important things in life.  When we talked on the phone last week I remember your comment on the weather.  It was raining & you said when you were passing a couple of students they were complaining about the rain; how wet & miserable it was. You told me you were smiling inside because it brought back memories of England back to you & the air smelt so sweet & fresh.

Life is a little like that – we have to have some grey days in our lives in order to appreciate the bright sunny ones, & we have to make the best of them. I can’t help thinking how wonderful it is that at your young age you seemed to have learned that. Some people live a whole lifetime Adrienne & they never learn to love the rain.  
 

From your ever loving, 
Mum

 

A photo of Adrienne and Mum 

 

This Diary is Worth So Much More than the Paper it is Written On • Melissa Dundas-Paine

Brett Rawson

BY MELISSA DUNDAS-PAINE

Our mom was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1989. It was a highly emotional time for our family, as Papa (our Dad's Dad) had just passed in a tragic car crash. Our Mom had surgery and underwent treatment shortly after the diagnosisbut being so close to our Papa, I can only imagine she immediately felt faced with her own mortality. I remember her saying that Papa visited her in a dream and told her it wasn't her time to go yet. She decided sometime between then and her death five years later that she needed to write down the story of how she met our dad, Papa's son, as well as when and why they decided to have children. 

But we didn't know this back then. Our dad gave us this handwritten story after her passing. She had also taken the time to type it out, but as you can imagine, the handwritten account tugs so much more at our heartstrings. There is just something special about seeing our mother's penmanship. It evokes so many sweet memories. 

She passed while we were all young, before any of us had started dating. But to have this account written by her of how she met our father and how she felt upon becoming pregnant with each of us and about the days we were born is just priceless. These are her thoughts and feelings written for us by her hand. What she must have been thinking as she penned this is just unfathomable. I'm sure she hoped we would be older and that the journal would have been full of more stories, but tragically, it sits less than a quarter full of her handwriting, as her life was cut short at the age of thirty-nine. 

This diary, or mini memoir, is a treasure to my sisters and myself, and is worth so much more than the paper it is written on.

Melissa Paine 1copy.jpg
 

Chris & I got engaged on June 10th, 1975.  He was so romantic.  We went parking by the lake, he asked me if I would be his wife and then slid the ring on my finger.  (What a love). One time, maybe a year before this, we were at a hockey game (Flyers). Chris asked me “why do you want to marry me?” I said, “because I want you in my life forever.” He said, “well if I marry you it will be forever.

 
 

I remember the night Chris said to me, “I’d like to start to try having a baby, what about you?” I was so excited I couldn’t sleep.  It was in March.  It took 3 months it seemed like forever.  Chris enjoyed the pregnancy so much.  We would lay on the couch at night and wait for the baby to kick.  All my babies were very lazy, maybe 10-15 kicks a day.  

 

 

Seventy Years Ago Today

Brett Rawson

By Carly Butler

It was while moving my grandfather into a retirement home that we stumbled upon 110 love letters written from my grandmother to my grandfather just after WWII. They were dated January to July of 1946, and they were tucked away in the back of a cupboard next to a slew of VHS tapes of recorded British sitcoms. My Grama had been gone for over 10 years at this point. She died when I was 13.

When we first found the letters, they were simply a precious family memento  an heirloom that we’d keep in a drawer the few years that followed their discovery. It wasn’t until 2012 that I found myself in front of the RMS Queen Mary docked in Long Beach, California, the ship that my Grama sailed on in 1946 towards her new life, that an idea started to form. I would move to England from January to July of 2013 to retrace my Grama's steps.  I would knock on the door of the house she wrote the letters from, I would visit the places she visited and I would write home to my love, just as she did.

The journey of retracing my Grama’s letters 67 years later changed my life. It has led me to this exact moment, drafting up my first entry for this column on Handwritten. If someone were to have told me that a bundle of love letters would change the course of my life, bring incredible people into my path, be the foundation of a love that I have with the perfect man for me, and create a connection to my Grama, someone who left this world almost 20 years ago, I’m not sure I would have believed it.  

What I've come to realize is that my gratitude for having these letters is far beyond the grand gesture or epic journey. The most meaningful part of having found my Grama’s letters is that they give me a window into a life-story of an incredible woman who walked before me. Her handwritten words allow me to get to know her as a 26 year-old women embarking on a major life decision, leaving behind everything she knew, putting her faith in love and living life the way it’s meant to be lived. Her words bring me strength when I feel weak, courage when I feel scared, belief when I am in doubt, and chutzpah to live the life of my dream, seventy years later. 

Her first letter, shared below for the first time, is dated January 17, 1946, just over seventy years ago today.

TRANSCRIPTION:

January 17, 1946

My Darling, 

I haven't written before because I knew it wouldn't be any use as the letter would get there before you. Darling, I miss you terribly, much more than I ever did before, now I am only living for the day when I get my papers to sail. Right until I got your telegram Tuesday morning, I thought and lived in the hope that you would walk in once more for a few stolen hours, but after I got the telegram I knew you had gone. Thanks for sending it, darling, it was sweet of you, if I hadn't of got it I might still be thinking you would come.

I hope you had a good sailing darling and it wasn't too rough (or does that make you laugh) anyway the main important thing is that you got there safely. P.G. Everything back here is very much the same, I started work back again today at Samuel’s, I couldn't stay at home doing nothing any longer the time just seem to drag. 

I wrote and asked for the address of the Canadian wives club and I've got it now, they meet every first Monday in the month and the next meeting is on Feb 4th so I'm going to go and learn some more about Canada and Canadian cooking (Ha! Ha! That's not funny). 

It's a funny thing darling but you know all the time you were here we never heard our song once, well both last night and the night before I heard someone singing it on the AFN, they must know just how I feel. Every time I go in our room, I nearly start crying and it's worse when I go to bed, the moon is still shining on our bed just like it was that last night you were here. 

On Tuesday night I went to the Odeon and saw "Love Letters" it was a lovely film and reminded me so much of how letters brought us together. I'm going to Oxford on Saturday for the weekend to take Vera back her things, anyway it will make a change for me, I'm going to take my camera and take some snaps to send to you. That reminds me I bought a smashing photo album the other day and I've put in all my snaps but there is still a lot of room, so I'm ready for all the snaps you are going to send me. Now all I want is a scrapbook. 

One of the women in the shop today asked me what I would like for a wedding present so I guess we are still collecting 'em. While I am writing this Dixie is walking all over the room, so you can just imagine. mmmm. I have an answer Danny's letter yet but I will soon, I have written to everybody else. Well darling I guess that's about all for now except that I love you and I won't feel like a whole person again until we are together for good. P.G. 

Half of me is with you, well cheerio darling, God Bless You and All the Luck in the world to you, Au revoir. All my love forever your ever loving wife, 

Rene

I love you – in x’s
P.S. Give my love to the family. Love Rene. 

Rumors Were True. I am Ill with Cancer • An Unpublished Letter from Anais Nin in 1975

Brett Rawson

Anais Nin wasn't supposed to be writing letters in 1975. She had been recently diagnosed with cancer. But she received a letter from a young woman wandering Japan, she felt compelled to respond. Thirty years later, it surfaces for the first time in public. In this new year, may you reach out to those who have influenced your thinking. Perhaps you, too, will receive words in return.

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I Won a Twenty Pound Bag of Detergent • Livia Meneghin

Brett Rawson

BY LIVIA MENEGHIN

A few years ago, I heard about a Brooklyn thrift store opportunity that I couldn't pass up: $25 for a large shopping bag of goodies. "If you can fit it, you can buy it!" said handwritten signs alongside the walls of the dilapidated building. When I saw their piles of books, I knew the clothing sections of the store would have to wait. My hands quickly skimmed across countless novels until finally halting on a book by Thomas A. Harris, called I'm OK—You're OK. I was taking a psychology class at the time, and interested in how mental health affected relationships, so I happily placed it in my bag. On the train home, I opened up the cover and found a note. 

On New Year's Eve in 1973, a mother gave this book to her daughter (Sue). But why did Sue’s mother have the book? We know she read it, but what made her give it to Sue? Did she now hope it could provide answers for her daughter in the New Year?

I thought back to the times I’ve been gifted books. Just this past summer, a close friend gave me her childhood copy of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry for my birthday. It was incredibly worn, probably providing her with years of adventure and happiness. Holding that book in my hands, with its broken spine and her favorite lines highlighted, made me feel like we were reading together. A book as a gift is so much more than something to read. Chosen with care and thoughtfulness, a book is an outstretched hand, welcoming another into a new world of new ideas.

On the train ride home, I flipped through the tattered pages when I came across a lump. Sitting between pages 138 and 139 was an unsealed letter from Mrs. Mary Lehman from Monmouth, Illinois to Mrs. Ruth Robertson from Marion, Kansas, dated three years after the inscription (September 16, 1976). I wondered now about the four women. Did they all know each other? Did Sue gift it after reading? Mrs. Lehman's handwriting reminded me of my grandmother's—very elegant and careful. I could hear a humorous attitude with the first line, "Guess its about time I answered your letter." I felt like I knew them—had been given access into their personalities, their voices. This letter was not much different from the ones I write with my friends. We share daily news, things that seem unimportant, but it can mean wonders to someone far away when we ask if they are OK.  

This leaves me wondering: what if I put a letter of my own into the book and donated it to a used bookstore, to keep the chain going? Whether intentionally placed or not, I picked up extra inspiration that day in Brooklyn, a mystery of sorts. I walked away with more than just a book, but possibilities for more stories. There's something incredibly human about imagining these women, especially through the same book they all shared. It makes the world feel smaller, more meaningful, even without actually knowing them or being in the same physical space. By continuing the chain, I can add to the story.

The letter is transcribed below.

 

Dear Ruth:
Sept 16, '76

Guess its about time I answer your letter, now that the Fall Festival is over with, it lasted 4 days. The senior citizens all went out there for breakfast one morning, we ate at the Lutheran tent, then went out that evening with Gene and Janice as Dan was working at one tent, the little boys were in the chicken scramble, Cory who is six, he caught a chicken and got a silver Dollar, but Tye was too slow, he didn’t get any, then the kids were in the Pet Parade on Sat. morning. Cory got first prize in his class, with a unusual [  ] got 2 silver dollars for that, so he thought he did real well, I won a 20 lb bag of detergent at one of the stands, so I will be clean for a while, been having nice weather, had a rain last wed night, has been cool ever since, had the furnace on a couple times, so makes one think that winter is just around the corner, we had a nice visit with Mary + Marvin, they were here for 3 days, seemed happy, hope everything turns out all right for them, they were on their way home. Ralph were here one evening, they had a letter from Lillian, they wanted me to read, sure too bad about Dick, hope he will soon be better. 

Jacks are getting ready to pick seed corn, they hope to start next week, some of the fellows have all ready started. Just talked to Phyllis she was making pepper relish, she always makes a lot and gives most of it away, as her men don’t like it, she brought me some nice tomatoes yesterday and dozen eggs, her pullets are laying already. 

I cleaned my garage yesterday, so today I am not doing much, made some bread pudding this morning, going to have goulash for dinner, have some hamburgers to use. Our Book Club went out for breakfast at the Restaurant yesterday morning. 

Hope you are feeling OK. Are you taking the Divine flu shot that the gov is giving. I will if they ever get the serum in here or else I will take my regular shot that I have always taken. 

Gene just called, said to tell you “Hello” 

Mary

Livia Meneghin is a poet, non-fiction writer, and recent graduate from Franklin & Marshall College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing. She was a contributing writer and photographer for F&M’s College Reporter, and earned the William Uhler Hensel Senior Prize in Research Writing for her essay, “Priest, Clerk, and Pitiable King: The Portrayal of Richard II in Recent Production History.” Her work is published in literary journals Dispatch and Plume. After a month-long poetry workshop in Greece, she is working on her first full-length collection and applying to MFA programs. You can follow her writing here: liviameneghin.wordpress.com.