A few days ago, I was rearranging the closet and came across 4 photo boxes. I knew what was in them; letters. More than 10 years ago, I had meticulously sorted them and labeled them; packing them carefully away until I had time to read them all or have need of them. I had rescued them from the attic of grandmother’s house where they had been marked for trash, and no part of me could let those boxes fall into the clutches of a garbage man. Then, I didn’t know what they contained, I was merely protecting ephemera and family relics. The handwritten envelope sitting on top, complete with vintage stamps, sold me on the lot. I would have paid to take home the boxes; but being family treasure, all I had to do was ask for them.
I realize that I’m teasing you, by not revealing the contents. The letters did not disappoint. Among them were some postcards, greeting cards, and a bunch of western union telegrams. But the bulk of the two boxes were handwritten letters tucked back into their original envelopes from the 1920s and 1930s. Some of them are from grandmother’s mother, but most of them are letters from former beaus. Interestingly enough there is little correspondence from grandfather. but perhaps those were in another box, lost in time. Certainly they are lost to us.
There is more to the story than just the rescue. The contents of the letters are intriguing. Perhaps the basis of a novel to come, or for some large relationship project. Certainly a glimpse into the past, and into the hearts of real people; that alone is treasure in itself.
I’ve decided to share one with you – this gem from Archer to Helen:
March 31 1930
(the last of the windy and uneasy month? -“it is a consummation devoutly to be wished”)
I should have at least five hours in which to think out while writing what I have to say – but I have only 1 hour now.
To begin with I have lost my only real happiness. I have thought many hours consciously and unconsciously of all that has been going on while I basking here experiencing that most rare feeling of perfect faith – all during exams – while such was not the case. All that I’m going to say is not sham or pretense or hurt vanity or pure misery but facts coming straight from me to you.
The last time I left you home when we were together – so perfectly in harmony – so absolutely synchronized in mind and body – our hearts – we were at last together earnestly – truly a single unit. I felt that at last I had wholly conquered what ever doubts, questions, etc. that were left in your heart and above all I thought that I had made you feel that we were living – never to be apart. In other words I had built up in your heart an exalted and perfected ideal of perfect faith in me – i had established the same in my own . Evidently I had not because I have lost – completely that faith as it is as though after progressing through years of continual building toward a goal with all our hearts and thoughts – then suddenly the foundation is torn and all is gone – we are back years – almost like those people who must make conversations during silences for fear that the other will read their inmost thoughts.
Possibly that marvelous contentment that we had only made you feel dissatisfied in other words you were too sure – i don’t think that such is the case – because I don’t believe that you knowing how much you do about me could ever let your mind work that way. But if we had built up such a feeling and then a few words of entreaty can so sway you toward the unattained that the former seems non-exciting – then – then – what? I don’t know. My dear – there is a woman here who is older than I, physically attractive – her views the same as mine and she has often offered herself to me – no doubt in weak moments – but the glamor of such an affair is as a faint flicker in comparison to a beautiful day such as this but – I’m not tying to be small and very clever and indefinite but perhaps my idea is all wrong – but I don’t think it is and I don’t believe that you think so. The latter to me seems so childish and immature in comparison to what a great love can mean.
You know only too well my big weakness of imagining things until they are tremendously real and human. In other words just like a woman I must be reassured that my loved one is still in need of me every minute. I have tried to always make you know that I am yours – but you were not so sure when you talked to me. Being of an affectionate nature as you are and if you only listened to him as you said and were swayed then, if he should ardently take you in his arms and make love to you cleverly as you say he is and kiss you you a million times – it seems from all this that you would be completely captivated. You see when you first were with me you were doubtful but after being close to me and being loved then all your doubts vanished. If you are to see him every day and there is always a suspended air between you – that horrible uneasy feeling of the unattainable will – it can’t help it finally come to a head and break. Just as long as he believes himself to be in love with you and can’t have you, the situation will only strengthen his love and will fascinate you – it can’t help it. Such is human nature.
You know best but to face it frankly if you stay either the whole affair will become unbearable for you or else he’ll win you – in other words you either stay there and wait and hope that nothing will happen and it will or else you’ll leave and then the whole thing will die away and disappear. Suspense is a weapon that is deadly and he can use it to his advantage indefinitely until you are nearly crazy – because it is inpossible for you to be open to such a a thing without finding it at the least extremely exciting and hypnotic.
Everything I have said has not in the slightest way meant to offend you or your sense of the delicate, but a lot of my almost lecture is full of truths that every one of us try to ignore, including myself.
Naturally your mind will turn to that horrible thing that happened to you and me last Xmas – you know only too well how terribly I hurt you and it was just as bad when you said you wanted to kiss him – I ached hideously inside just as you must have. Ever since Xmas I’ve tried so hard to make you forget and grant me the forgiveness I’ve so terribly sincerely asked for so many times. My dear – you never even hinted that you were sorry to hurt me – what does that mean?
You’ll get this Tuesday night and I want you to sit down with this and answer everything in my letter – never mind phrasing or correct this and than just think & write it down.
You know most precious that you are my one goal & flame to live by – you know that I love you – such words are as nothing for I adore you, worship you as a thing afar to be reached only through constant thoughts of your dear self. Don’t tell me I have failed.
We are not the two children we were in may two years ago, for you are a woman and but then I am a man and without that perfect unshaken, never failing faith I can not exist. I must either go and forget what is nearly impossible or else I cannot help but rise to greater heights because of your great soul. And now I’m waiting.