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Another Day in the Country

Unreadable writing

© Another Day in the Country

A while back — which could be the day before yesterday, last month, or anywhere from 10 to 40 years ago — my sister found a book about writing letters to your grandchildren.

It was a bound booklet of envelops, each with a page for writing a letter attached.

It was such a good idea that she bought one for me to use.

I looked at that book for a couple of years, wondering what I would say to my grandchild.

There were suggested topics: my past, his future, my opinions — all of it quite doable. But I wanted to do it right. I thought about it, pondering, until 2016. 

Once written — it took me about a year to complete them all — the letters resided inside the book inside a wooden box where I keep important papers.

It is now 2022. My one and only grandson is 15 years old, and I decided that this was the time to give him the letters.

He’s been here with me in Ramona for the past month. We’ve had a tremendous month spending time together.

We’ve done all kinds of stuff, including trimming trees, learning to drive, making sauerkraut (which included harvesting cabbage from my garden), and even eating completed sauerkraut with mashed potatoes (also harvested from my garden), shooting off fireworks, making strawberry jam, shopping for school clothes, and mowing with my zero-turn speedy machine — not listed in exact order.

Did I say it was wonderful? It was! The best summer ever! I hope we can do it again and again, but meanwhile he’s growing older, and other summer activities will be on the docket.

Already, way too soon, it’s time for him to head back to California and school.

“Here’s a bunch of letters I’ve written to you,” I said as he was packing his suitcase. “I can’t even remember what I wrote, but at the time I thought it was important, and just now I realized that I very carefully wrote them in cursive. and you’ve never been taught to read cursive!”

Bummer-bob!

My great-grandma Schubert had a habit of writing diaries, not letters. She jotted down her thoughts regularly — in German, in cursive.

Her antiquated handwriting, is beautiful to see, but other than a first name, now and then, none of the family can read what she wrote.

When her daughter-in-law, Augusta, was moving from the farm to the metropolis of Ramona, she had a bonfire in the front yard and threw her mother-in-law’s unreadable diaries into the fire.

The minute she turned her back, my Aunt Gertie retrieved them.

“They were important documents from the past,” she said, many years later, as she handed them to me. “You can have them.”

But I couldn’t read them.

Then I thought of my friend Michaela, who came to Kansas from Austria and speaks beautiful German.

“Can you read this diary?” I asked, handing her the artifact.

She studied the pages carefully, squinting, sighing, and then said, “I can’t translate. It’s a dialect I don’t know, and with all the flourishes, I really can’t decipher it. Let it be, Pat, they are her private thoughts.”

My daughter joined us for the last week of this summer vacation extravaganza. Free time is such a novelty to her that automatically she started organizing things.

“What are your goals for the next 12 months?” she wanted to know.

“Staying alive,” I joked, dodging her list-making.

After I presented the packet of letters I written to him, Dagfinnr said, “I guess, I need to have the goal of learning to read cursive”.

“They really didn’t teach it in your school?” I asked, aghast.

Then again, who writes letters anymore, except for me and a couple of my stalwart, far-away friends. 

I’d always written letters to my grandson, but I did it on a computer and printed them out so he could actually read them. Then, not thinking about his non-cursive handicap, I’d written him 12 difficult-to-decipher missives about life. At what point in the future, if ever, will he be able to read them?

Could it be that one day, many years in the future, he’ll hand off that pack of letters to his child and say, “Here’s a family heirloom from your great-grandmother. It’s letters she gave to me the summer I was 15. Sadly, she wrote in cursive, which I couldn’t decipher, but she had carefully penned her advice about life” on another day in the country.

Last modified Aug. 4, 2022

 

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