In this second project I’m reading a letter written on the same day, January 7, 1968, by my maternal grandmother, Grandma Char. She and Grandpa Bob lived on a half-city block in Colton, California. They had an orchard of fruit and nut trees, including oranges, grapefruit, Santa Rosa plums, a wormy apple tree (that made fantastic pies), apricots, peaches, nectarines, persimmons, pecans and walnuts. Grandma was 65 and a retired math teacher, and Grandpa was 70 and a retired history teacher and principal. He was in the last stages of Parkinson’s disease, and the family had suffered to see a man of such integrity and character decline in health over a long period of time.
They both attended Great Grandma Georgenie’s 104th birthday party in Hemet. Grandma Char lists the guests, describes the two cakes (one white from the convalescent hospital, and one chocolate made by Grandma Nina), and mentions the photographer from the newspaper.
Other topics include Aunt Rachel (one of her sisters) and Uncle Glen heading for Paris for an extended stay; the plan for Aunt Blessing (another sister) to join them for a month; and a bargain that had been struck for Rachel to return in June to attend the college graduation and wedding of Suzie (one of their daughters). On a recent weekend visit, Grandma Char and her niece, Kay, had spotted a wild parrot in Colton, presumably the same one I had spotted on a family visit to Colton the previous summer (apparently multiple communities of expat parrots live in Northern and Southern California). She also mentions the mystery story I was writing at the time (“The Mystery of the Sapphire Ring”), and the collection of dolls that my friend, Theresa, and I played with (we loved to act out spy and adventure stories).
In this video I tried to treat Grandma Char’s letter in parallel with the letter from Grandma Nina where I could, using comparable or even the same images. But many topics are unique to the writer. This made me think about the best approach for writing about family history. Is it better to use the structure of a letter (filled with the beauty of the everyday), or is it better to focus on a single topic like the birthday party (and provide a story line, excerpts of letters with multiple points of view, and maybe add pertinent history). I also thought about the role of privacy and confidentiality. These letters are over 50 years old, and the writers and events are long past, but their descendents still live. Is there a statute of limitations for sharing family history? All things worth considering!