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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: Lifes Letter

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.

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.

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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.