My grandmother Bray is quite a woman. She always has about four projects going, and several more brewing in her head. I'd like to think I take after her just a little. For Christmas she put together a book of old family letters from World War II for each of us.
Reading through the letters is like getting a small glimpse into another world, one that doesn't exist anymore but that I wish I could have seen. I'm reading love letters from my grandfather, who had to leave his wife of two months because of the war. He later died when my fafther was just 4, so I piece together his identity from the few black and white pictures we still have, my father's one total memory of him, watching movies that star Tyrone Power, who he was said to look like, and now his letters to the girl he loved.
I'm also reading the letters my great-grandmother wrote to her three daughters while they were away the university. My great-grandmother up to this point has been in my mind a stern and silver-haired woman who had flowers and cats. Now I'm reading her letters in which she calls her three daughters "tiddley winks" and "goblings." She frets over her 18-year-old son who has to fill out his draft papers for the army. She misses her daughters so much she adopts the cadets from the nearby Pampa Army Airfield. But in phrases like "don't be so silly," peppered throughout the letters, she proves she is still clearly a woman of no-nonsense.
Her letters are filled with motherly admonitions and stories of her garden full of marigolds and chrysanthemums and dahlias. She picks bunches and puts them on the radio and on the kitchen table. She spends her days canning peaches and peas and making strawberry pies. She talks about sewing new suits for her daughters and worries about the whereabouts of adopted cadets who passed through Pampa then left for war and weren't heard from again.
I know it wasn't an easy life, working hard every day with your daughters away at school, friends away at war, and a son you feared was next. But it still has that charm of the good old days. Now that I'll be the proprieteress of a large yard, perhaps I can continue just a little bit in my great-grandmother's footsteps and grow some peas.