By Mark Lehman
As I was growing up, it didn’t occur to me I was actually living my own history. I was simply part of the ideal post-war era of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s with loving parents seeking their own part of the American Dream in a brand new tree-filled subdivision in the hills west of Austin. Our personal safety, exposure to drugs or alcohol, or the infiltration of any non G-rated programing into our lives, was never an issue. Any negative intrusion into my life usually centered around an occasional bee sting, flat tire on my bicycle, or questionable report card from school.
During my formative years, I never thought of my parents as having any type of existence that did not revolve around the functional needs of their young family. They were fun-loving and very happy people who seemed completely content spending their days in a simple routine of putting food on the table, keeping the lawn mowed, and getting their well-groomed children to school and church on time. (Well most of the time, anyway.)
On occasions like Valentine’s Day or their respective birthdays, they appreciatively exchanged practical and mundane gifts like vacuum cleaners, harvest gold blenders, electric drills and socks. The thought they might share any type of interest in each other outside our daily life was foreign to me. However, I was enlightened by two letters I recently discovered in the shoebox dated February of 1952.
Evidently my parents were separated for a few months after their marriage while my dad finished his military obligation. During this time he wrote a heartfelt letter to his “darling angle” [sic] pledging they would never be separated again. This beautifully worded letter talked about the home he wanted to build, the children he wanted to have, and the dreams they would share together. He also apologized for not being with her on their first Valentine’s Day as a married couple, and for the fact that she had to settle for a letter instead of her favorite: red roses.
The letter must have made some impact on my mom because she saved it forever. My father also saved the letter she wrote back to him saying, his “sweet words” were all she would ever want from him, and she would be really mad if he ever wasted his hard earned money on something as frivolous as roses.
This long ago letter exchange is more validation that: flowers wilt, pre-printed messages on cards are quickly discarded, and even toasters and blenders don’t come with a lifetime warranty. Written words saved and passed down through generations are our only links to our own family histories, legacies and dreams for future generations to build upon.
My mother often commented on a Bible verse about Jesus’ mother realizing her young son had very special gifts. Luke 2:43 reads: “And his mother stored all these things in her heart.”
By saving these letters and leaving them behind where I would easily find them, my mom left a guidepost about the dreams she was storing in her own heart as a young woman. These dreams later became my reality – and my own history.