Friday, July 17, 2015

This is me at age nine: a letter from the past




Since my mom passed away last September and my dad is living in an apartment, our family farmhouse has been left unused, and we're in the process of emptying it and dealing with the property.

My youngest brother, Errol, was at the house last week and brought back some old letters, school report cards, and other things belonging to me -- things I hadn't laid eyes on in many years.

Rather than just giving me this particular item, he made a point of drawing my attention to it with considerable fanfare and reading it out loud for special effect.  It's a letter I wrote to my mom in 1974; she was in the P.E.I. Hospital having just given birth to Errol the day before. I was just a couple of months short of my tenth birthday.  Here's the letter, in its entirety (I've added a couple of square-bracketed bits for clarification):

******************************


February 25th

Dear Mom,



I have plenty of news for you!

First of all, we had the meanings test today.  I made 100% in it.  I studied it very well.

I saw Natalie [my cousin] yesterday. She asked me if I had a sister, and I told her I had a brother. She pretended she was mad.

I think the name is real nice. Lincoln [older brother] likes [the name] Errol. Of course George is after Grandpa MacLean.

He’s an awful big baby – 10 pounds and three ounces.  I can’t wait to see him.

I hope you don’t think I’m unhappy because it’s a boy! I, truly, couldn’t be happier!  I’ll have fun with him too. Now I’ll be middle! I’m like Deb Corney – she has 4 brothers, too, and no sisters.

Some other kids got 100% too, in reader. J.T., V.B., R.A., R.N., K.M., and I all did.  See you Friday.
                                                                                                                                Love from,
                                                                                                                                Jeannie
X X X X X X
O O O O O O



****************************** 



We got a good laugh out of this letter. I had absolutely no memory of writing it, but this is what I think now about the person who penned those words:

I was quite the little scholar. Errol made a point of mocking the fact that, the day after my mom had given birth, I wrote her a letter beginning and ending with information about my academic achievements. But hey: those university degrees don't get themselves.

I was quite the writer, too. The whole thing was in very neat cursive, not a misspelling or grammatical error in sight. I particularly like the "I, truly, couldn't be happier" part -- though Errol says adding "truly" and putting it between commas like that is a sure sign that I was lying. 

My love of language is evident in my mention of a "meanings test" (presumably that was a test of definitions of words) and getting 100% in "reader."

It's been suggested to me that it probably wasn't necessary for me to explain to my mom why she and Dad had chosen a particular second name for my brother.  Or to use the words "of course." I guess I thought it was my job not only to receive the information, but to interpret it.

My childish faith in our national institutions, such as the postal system, is shown in the fact that I wrote a letter to the hospital on a Monday, knowing my mom would be getting home already on the Friday. (I don't know why I didn't just send the letter with Dad, since he must have visited my mom sometime during those four days.)

What would I say to my nine-year-old self today? 

Keep reading and writing.

It's great to get 100%, but you won't always excel at everything; just do your best and try to enjoy it.

Don't use too many commas.

Put X's and O's at the end of your letters whenever appropriate.

Never lose sight of the important things in life, like family, love, and relationships. In fact, maybe that's what the phrase "meanings test" really refers to.

Love from, 
Jeannie
XXXXXX
OOOOOO

14 comments:

  1. I have seen a couple letters that I wrote at about that age, although I don't think they were quite as grammatically correct:) I love your thoughts about what you would say to yourself today. Very wise. Thanks! Judy

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    1. Thanks so much, Judy! I always love to hear from you.

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  2. Well said, missy! Yours in intellectual equality, Carmen xo. :-)

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    1. Thanks, Ellie -- I appreciate your stopping by!

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  4. Jeannie, your letter at age 9 and your explication of it at age - Hmm, how old might you be? I'm going to say you will soon turn 30 - are wonderful. Your love of family and of learning shine brightly.through it all.

    Tim

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    1. Thanks, Tim! 30 is a nice thought, but since Rich and I have been married for 25 years ...

      I'm sure my mom had a good chuckle over my letter, too. And maybe she and I *were* both kinda hoping for another girl but I think that, truly, we both got over it. :-D

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  5. Aw, Jeannie! You brought a tremendous smile to my Sunday afternoon. Thank you for this cute blast from the past.
    xxxxxxxxx
    oooooooo

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    1. You're welcome, Betsy -- glad you enjoyed this post. I had a lot of fun writing it. It has been fun going through the box my brother took back: looking at old report cards and memorabilia.

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  6. This is priceless, Jeannie! I'm going through all the old family photos that my mom inherited when my grandfather died, and there are some interesting tidbits of family information hidden in there. For example, an explanation for my grandfather's love of attention: his mama took a ton of photos of him and his six older siblings, and they're all posing for the camera and whatnot. I can't imagine how she could afford to spend money on photos during the Great Depression, but she did.

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    1. So interesting, Laura! I can see a blog post (or ten ... or a book!) coming out of that!

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  7. This is such a sweet post! (Truly.)
    Xxoo

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    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Dawn -- I, truly, appreciate it.

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