Country Woman

A Life in Letters


There is something about sharing tidbits with family and friends in one’s own handwritin­g that is above dashing something off electronic­ally. The coffee ring left on the page, an enclosed picture or recipe and even the unique stamp all let someone know they are worth the extra time.

When I moved away for school, handwritte­n letters—and all the photos, artwork and articles they contained—became my lifeline to my family and friends. I’d call occasional­ly, but that was expensive.

Recently, I went through a box of letters from family and friends that I’d saved dating back over 40 years. Rereading them brought wonderful memories. Many of the letter writers have passed away, yet when I hold their tales in my hand, I feel I am sharing their air one more time.

Advice is rampant in the saved correspond­ence. Some guidance relates to being a good student; other advice covers the best sewing machines (along with patterns and fabric swatches) or how to raise a garden (seeds included).

There are encouragin­g words from my brother during a difficult season in his own life and crumbling newspaper clippings of an uncle’s accomplish­ments. Finding a copy of Grandma’s cranberry salad recipe was the end of a decadelong search.

Nowadays, my mailbox doesn’t get as many letters as it once did. When I do receive a note, it is as exciting as when I first moved away. I’ve learned the value of homegrown words from family and friends. They kept me going during difficult days, grounded and refreshed me.


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