053021 human condition (toned)

“Dear Susan," began the letter dated Oct. 20 1978.

"Hope college is going well for you. We finally got a good rain and the mustards are almost eatable. The turnips never came up. Your daddy killed 2 more squirrels. Well, no more news. Better go put on some cornbread. Love, Ma.”

I am Susan, keeper of most of the letters I have received in my life. And I treasure them.

The above excerpt came from a letter my paternal grandmother wrote to me when I was in college at LSU.

This one, dated Jan. 9, 1979, came from my mama:

“Dear Susan,

We are all doing fine. We ate at Grandma’s last night. It was your Aunt’s birthday, and she was wondering why you didn’t send her a card. She was also irritated because Grandma didn’t make her a chocolate cake. She made coconut. We all ate too much as usual …”

When I later married my husband from New Bedford, Massachusetts, his mother and I became great pen pals from 1981 until her death in 1999.

We wrote diaries to each other. Here is a bit of one from Sept. 6, 1992, when she and my father-in-law were vacationing at Cape Cod.

“Dear Susan, Here we are in Wellfleet, just the 2 of us, and it is so peaceful. Yesterday, no sun and chilly so we went to breakfast at the bookstore, and then came back and just relaxed and rested at the cottage. Then we went to 4 p.m. Mass. Pat (my husband’s brother) and family are coming to join us tomorrow. So, I bought oodles of soda, cookies, snacks, jimmies for sundaes, sandwich makings that the boys like. I suggested we go to the restaurant Moby Dick when they arrive. But, Dad says let Pat decide. But, we all like that restaurant!?!!!!!”

She went on to describe the ocean and the beautiful ponds there but did not follow up on which restaurant Pat ultimately chose.

My most treasured letter was not written to me, but was written by my Dad to his mother back in Ferriday. He wrote it on Dec. 24, 1942, from San Diego during World War II.

“Dear Mother and all,

We had to go to a seaman’s lecture this morning, and I had to sit on the hardest floor ever for 2½ hours. We went to a USO show this afternoon. There was a star that played in 'The Fleet's In.' I hope you all have a good Christmas. We get off tomorrow. They have a good dinner planned. That kind of dinner only comes once a year in this man’s navy.”

My Dad was 17 when he wrote this.

In this modern world of texts, instant messaging and digital invitations, paper correspondence is becoming a thing of the past. This new way to correspond is certainly faster, but will it be treasured and reread many times. I think not.

— Walsh lives in Baton Rouge


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