What (if anything) do you hang on to? I have a ton of memories, but (even after the fire) I have only a few physical mementos. One of the greatest treasures I have is a couple of letters that were sent between my mom and my Aunt Elaine.
I know it’s hard for some of you to believe, but there was this thing called “mail” way back when, and it was the major form of communication. Yes, we had telephones back then also, but the writing was the more personal way to discuss current happenings. (To this day I HATE long phone calls.) They send letters that were not short and sweet, but several pages long. I still remember mom’s face every time she got one the letters. She smiled when it was in her hand, and then would find a quiet place where she could be alone to read it.
The did not just discuss major things like a new baby or job, but the little things like how the laundry machine keeps eating up socks. Why don’t any of the boys use napkins? What is with boys eating boogers? Where did all the wrinkles on their faces come from? (They both unanimously determined that it was all the kids’ fault.)
Those letters were more precious to her than most other things in her life. It was her small way to still connect with her past and loved ones back home. She lived here from 1980 until 1999 when she had enough of this old life. It was a much shorter time here for her than her time in Wisconsin. She loved the weather much better but really seemed to miss family.
Even though Colorado is now our home, there is still a big part of me that now, and always will, sees Wisconsin as home. Mom’s side of the family has always been close-knit. To me, that is one of the most precious things in life. It is having a family that loves each other so much that you want to know what’s going on in their lives.
(This is not our home, but close. I do remember that the last remnant to come down was the silo. Now it looks nothing like our childhood home. The first thing destroyed was the house, and I cried.)
I have cousins (and tons of them Thank God!!) that I am still very much in touch with. I know great Aunts and Uncles. I know some great family history. My Aunt Sissy (moms only sister – real name was Marlene, but we always just called her Sissy), passed on an amazing book she had been collecting family mementos in. I was so honored and thrilled that I could not wait to organize and add to it. It was in my favorite place – my crafting area – when the fire hit. It was one of the first to go. Broke my heart.
I have some things I managed to save, some things sent to me from family, and will someday get back into Ancestry.com to try to complete our family tree (it’s huge so that it will take some time). Right now, I am just trying to hang onto what bits and pieces I can protect. We had a fire-proof safe before the fire which saved major documents like car titles, birth certificates and the like. We purchased a new one (it was our first purchase) right after the fire to store the things we were finding. I don’t need a safe for my precious items, but something fire and tornado proof would be stellar.
I had just started to get into my dad’s side of the family. My middle name is my dad’s mom’s name, so it’s a personal thing for me. That side of the family has always been a huge mystery for us. I remember the hay baling parties and our fall Corn Roast where most of dad’s family would show up. I did not know until just a few years ago that my grandfather (dads dad) had brothers! To me, that’s just wrong.
To this day there is one thing my father did that ticked me (and mom) off that I never will forget. His parents got into a bad car wreck on my Lutheran Confirmation day. Two cousins and I were all at the same church and were confirmed at the same time, so a big party was planned. Grandma got thrown from the car when it was hit – killed instantly. Dad and his siblings handled everything but agreed that Grandpa should purchase a separate flower arrangement for Grandma himself. A final gift of love from husband to the wife if you will. When dad approached his dad about it, Grandpa went off on him…” ungrateful kids, should be able to handle this, so I don’t have to, it shouldn’t come from my pocket” were the types of phrases he used. Dad got livid, paid for it out of his pocket and never spoke to Grandpa again.
The thing I am not sure he knew is that mom still talked to Grandpa – via mailed letters. I don’t remember seeing any letters coming from him, but I do remember Christmas cards. In the end, he lived with dad’s youngest brother Ronnie. We got a phone call one day that said that Grandpa had died. We did not go back home to the funeral. Mom sent a card; dad would not sign it. I still do not think that’s right. I forgave him for being such a dumb ass, but I have never forgotten. Family is family, and no matter how mad you can get at each other, in the end, they are still blood.
I am glad all these years later that I have my mementos. I am even more glad for all my memories (good and bad). I am also glad that I still have family that I can write letters and send cards to (warning Carol Jo – haha) in hopes of a reply. We do not get to go back and see them all as much as I would like to anymore, but the love still holds strong even in a simple letter.
You can also check me out at: www.helbergfarmstories.com for fun stories from our farm.