Saved Letters

In the top drawer of the file cabinet I inherited from my mother, I found an old manila folder full of letters that she and my father exchanged in the early phases of their romance, circa 1928 to 1930. The little archive is a mix of missives, from folded notes on torn-out scraps of notebook paper that would pass as "texts" today to three-page rants on the tortures of separation during the summers they spent apart. These are the souvenirs my mother stored through sixty years of marriage and ten of widowhood. At the end, she neither gave nor willed them to me, but simply left them behind. After another decade, I have finally made time to read through and set them in chronological order.

My parents' attitudes and personalities are fully recognizable in the pair of lovesick teenagers who wrote to each other at least once a day. Nothing they confided in their correspondence seems foreign to me or even to my children, who knew the couple only as elderly grandparents. What feels strange is to hold the fossil record of their love preserved in the amber of the writing paper -- not just the words, but also the moody changes of handwriting, the stationery she acknowledged as a gift from him (in their favorite color), the antiquated letterhead of the laboratory where he worked, the lost quiet of a private intimacy at the furthest possible remove from the social network.