Love letters are a lost art. And I mean the pen and paper kind, not these typed, e-mailed electronic correspondences. No, real love letters — handwritten and delivered. They are a tangible expression of the abstract; a piece of someone in your hands.
After my grandmother passed away a few years ago, my mother and aunt made an unexpected and emotional discovery while cleaning out her house. There, in an old wooden desk, was a stack of love letters that my grandmother, Mae, had received from my grandfather, Edward, when he was stationed in Fort Monroe, VA.
Mae wasn’t an overly sentimental woman by my recollections. She was born and raised on a farm outside of a small fishing village called Greenbackville on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Her life wasn’t easy, and she was a tough woman. I don’t know that I ever saw her cry.
But, once I began to read through the letters, I saw something completely surprising. As I eavesdropped into the past, I learned that my grandfather, as a young boy from a small town named Girdletree, had managed to do something few people could. He saw something easy, something soft, and perhaps even something tender or loving beneath her tough exterior. And, in those early days, that boy fell in love.
This letter is one of my favorites; it’s from young Edward at Fort Monroe to Mae, back home on the farm:
Fort Monroe, Va
Hdq Btry. 51st CA
March 16, 1938
Dearest one and only one:
I will now answer your letter I rec’d today. Gosh that was the most interesting letter I have gotten yet. Would you believe it I haven’t written to mother since I came back. I am ashamed to even write now.
I am homesick now if I could only be there. I thought I would be glad to get back but I have found I was wrong. Mae, I am in love with you and this parting has proved it. Now as it has always happened, you should be mad. I swear if this time don’t work out, I will never go with another girl with any intentions of love. I have been in the greatest daze of my life these few days. I have been to Suffolk and didn’t even go see that girl. I sat and talked with an old married woman all night. She is as nice to me as she can be.
I have a couple of married friends around here I go up to their house and sit nights. Have lots of coffee and think why it can’t be us in their place. Darling, I am coming home as soon as I get out of debt which won’t be very long. I am counting the days of my time now 4 months and 27 days. I saw it lighten today and it tickled me to think of it getting that warm. Darling I have just got to write to mother now so be real good and write me a long letter this week. I will more time the next time I write I hope. I haven’t had those pictures developed yet I hope to have them this week.
Loads of Love,
A True Lover,