Learning history’s lessons through letters

3 mins read


Three years ago, I wrote an article about getting an email from my granddaughter, who lives in Maryland. She asked me if I would like to be her summer pen-pal. 

I said yes and received her first letter in July of 2016.

But after a while, we realized we enjoyed the correspondence and have continued the practice. We still communicate through texting and Face Time, but our letters are more interesting and describe our activities and adventures, worries and travels, and include encouragement and love. 

Ultimately, we are leaving miniature history lessons behind that maybe someday her grandchildren might read.

As grandparents, we often wonder what kind of legacy we will leave to our children and grandchildren, but I have discovered that letter writing is in itself a legacy. How I wish I had a description of my own grandmother’s daily activities, and her thought on politics and books. What a treat it would have been to learn, through her letters, from a woman who born in 1896, what it was like to see an airplane for the first time, to be able to vote and to listen to the first radio broadcasts.

In my most recent letter to my granddaughter, I wrote about being glued to the television set that summer day 50 years ago as Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon. I can still remember all my family watching breathlessly. What an accomplishment! 

And when you think about the technology at the time, it is scary!

I have described to her a life without the conveniences she takes for granted. Computers, cell phones, “blue tooth” anything, Wi-Fi, and a host of other inventions that have been around since she was born almost 12 years ago. 

Now I ask her to think of the inventions there might be that her own grandchildren will take for granted. Trips to the Disney Moon Park?

My encyclopedia set seems so archaic next to her “Hey Google.”

My dictionary is tedious compared to her auto correct. 

When I wrote her about some of my favorite songs, I realized that I still have words in my vocabulary that do not have any meaning to her like records, cassettes and CDs. Because all she has to do is download a song. 

My 2006 car still has a six-CD player in the glove compartment and there is a stack of CDs in a case. Will my gas-powered engine be considered the Model T of its day?

It takes some time to sit down, and write to someone and many people have gotten away from letter writing. I understand, after all, a quick text is so easy. 

But remember the text will be gone someday, and a letter about your life may just outlive you.


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