I envy people whose ancestors saved pages and pages of letters and diaries documenting their lives and their associations with others. As my mom and I go through old papers and scrapbooks, I find that I do have a few items like that. I find I don’t have the hours in the day to properly scan and preserve everything, and I don’t have room in my house to keep it all. Now that I have a smartphone, I can at least take photos of letters and other ephemera.
On a recent visit to my mom’s house, she handed me a coloring book that must have belonged to her when she was a girl. From some research online, I can see that it’s missing a lot of pages and the edges are torn. Still, it’s a wonderful piece of history.
I think of Annie Oakley as being from the old west, but her legend lived on. Oakley’s life spanned 1860-1926. My mom wasn’t born until 1937, but that was two years after a movie came out starring Barbara Stanwyck as Annie. Another movie, the musical “Annie Get Your Gun” came out in 1950, when my mom was just finishing eighth grade. I see some listings for this coloring book online dating it to 1957 and linking it to a mid-fifties TV series, but I think it must have been reprinted many times.
At the same time that my mom gave me that coloring book, she also handed me a couple of letters. One is from her mother Willie Stevens cook to her, the other is from her mother, who I called Mam-ma, to me.
The letters were not in an envelope, and there is no date noted. I can narrow it down to around 1977 or 1978. My cousin Wendy, who is mentioned in both letters, was born in December, 1970. The letter to me describes her as being in first or second grade, so I’m thinking it was the summer between those school years. I think the big gathering mentioned in Mam-ma’s letter to my mom was a Cook-Allison family reunion.
That’s also the era when my dog Snoopy lived with Mam-ma and Pap-pa because we couldn’t have him where we living in Charleston, South Carolina. Mam-ma’s letter to me told me he was fat and happy. I remember them telling me that he got really sick one time and they took extra good care of him, because they didn’t want to have to give me bad news.
These letters don’t contain anything earth-shattering. They are just a few thoughts and experiences, but it’s wonderful to see my grandmother’s handwriting again and to know what she was thinking about for a few minutes.