One of the great things about living in a house built in the 1800s by my great-grandparents is that it’s full of old family stuff.
Okay, you probably already knew that. However, the old stuff here that I treasure the most are the letters and notes from the distant, and not-so-distant, past.
Shortly after Bing and I moved in, I found three of my grandmother’s five-year diaries. She faithfully chronicled the weather each day, then added a few short sentences about what was going on. The lines that brought tears to my eyes (an easy thing to do – I’ll cry if someone reads a phone book in a sad voice) were the references to me: “Molly stayed with me overnight.” “Molly has a sore throat, but Ceke (my mother) said she’s getting better.” “Molly got a new dress – she looks pretty in it.”
Just last week, I discovered a letter I had never seen before. It fell out of my dad’s 1922 Algona High School yearbook. I got the yearbook down from the top shelf of the bookcase – I had to climb up a small step-ladder to reach it, but please don’t tell my children. They tend to scold me over things like changing a ceiling light bulb or fixing a high-off-the-floor curtain rod.
I’ve learned not to tell them of any exploits that involve climbing more that six inches off the ground.
I unearthed (unshelfed?) the yearbook because I wanted to look up a football picture of my dad – I forget just why.
Anyway, out fell a letter my mother must have stored in there. It was from my dad to his cousin in Des Moines. The cousin must have sent it back to Mother after Daddy died, knowing she’d love reading it. It was written Nov. 17, 1965.
Here are a few excerpts:
“Bing changed my will yesterday so if I die playing golf or chasing women it will save Ceke a bundle in taxes. So I am ready to go anytime now and will have a clause put in that they should put a bottle of Paddy whiskey in my hand so the curious ones can have a snort while saying how nice he looks.
“Have been playing golf a lot, even with long underwear, two pair of pants and socks, three sweaters and a quilted jacket and fur cap. Not playing good but having fun. . . then after golf, I go down and see Heather (his two-month-old granddaughter). Without bragging, I will say she is the most beautiful child I have ever seen. Ceke is the very touching grandmother.
Molly and Bing are loving it here and he is doing very well. They got a five-weeks-old dog the other day and are now busy cleaning up after it. What it will turn out to be is anyone’s guess, as the mother strayed.”
Daddy died of a heart attack just two weeks after writing the letter.
We didn’t put a bottle of Paddy whiskey in his hand.
I kinda wish we had.