This is going to be about my Grandmother. My Grandma is easily one of the funniest people I have ever met. She is extremely talkative and seriously says just about anything. Her stories are the best. When we were kids and did anything goofy she would call us “cucarachas” She enjoys swearing, and by that I mean “shit” and “damn” because she is by all means a lady, but also loves to be shocked when anyone else ever swears. She also enjoys sticking her tongue out at my Grandpa when he disagrees with her. Overall, she is absolutely delightful. She might be on the higher end of the eighties but her personality is a vibrant and sparkling as ever. I’m so serious about that.
She also writes letters. When I was a kid she and I would write all the time, and I would write her in college as well. She writes letters just the way she talks, effortlessly and undoubtedly, amusingly. She asks questions like she expects you to answer them right away. Even when she buys greeting cards for holidays or birthdays she will double underline words or cross out “like” and put in “love” or an additive saying “really! I mean that!” When we were kids she would fill the letters with stickers. She cuts out comics from the news paper that she thinks people will like and stick them in with the letters. We used to get quite a few “Marmeduke” comics when we had a gigantic dog when I was young, the name “Markeduke” always crossed out and “Jake” written in, with her elegant scrawl.
Recently, on facebook, one of my co-workers posted an address that you can send Christmas card to for soldiers over seas. I thought it was a nice gesture and told myself I would definitely do that for this holiday season, just a little something to show we care and appreciate those who sacrifice for us. This brought to mind my grandma and her letter writing, and that she did a whole lot more than a small gesture during World War II.
During World War II everyone was putting forth effort for the war. They were growing “victory gardens” and eating from them, buying war bonds and eating on rations. My grandmother did what she did best. She wrote letters. That was her war effort. But I’m not talking back and forth with four or five friends. She wrote regular correspondance to 89 different men would were fighting. Some of them were boys she had grown up with and knew. But many of them she didn’t know and had never met. I asked her, a long time ago, how she started writing them. She said many of them had started writing her first, getting her address from another soldier who knew her personally or just through letters. My favorite story about this was a soldier who started writing her because he saw her address written on a box. Simple as that.
Apparently, her mother helped her organize her letters, with keeping track of the different addresses she needed to write to. They even had her portrait taken and sent out pictures to the soldiers she would write to. I just imagine the men overseas, far from home and comfort, reading my grandma’s letters. I don’t doubt they were as funny and as full of personality as her letters are today. She would write to them as if they were sitting side by side, asking them questions ask if they would answer right then and had known her for ages. I imagine them picturing this pretty young woman back home, going about her life and letting them in on it, perhaps giving them a small taste of home, of normal, of love. They were sacrificing themselves, and I would like to think it helped them, maybe just a little, when a young woman was willing to be so personal with them, sharing her life with them.
I think about this and wonder if there is anything similar to be done for the soldier who sacrifice for us. It seems sad to me that letters, the kind with paper and ink, have just about gone the way of the dinosaurs. Which, when thinking of the history of letter writing, and my grandmothers small contribution to it, seems rather sad. They way people have been communicating from a distance for hundreds of years has been changed in less than fifty. Not to knock email, it is convenient, easy and essential to the way we live our lives today. But I don’t think clicking open an email can have the same thrill as tearing an envelope and seeing someones written words. I think of those soldiers who I’m sure came to recognize my grandmothers handwriting, and gaining some comfort that she was still on the other side other ocean and still cared that they weren’t.