Letters to Home

Letters to Home

I can say something about myself that most people cannot say:  I have five brothers, and I have five sisters. I was baby number nine of eleven siblings.   

When I’m asked if we’re still a close family, I can answer that we are. Like many families, we stay in touch through emails and texting. Since Stevie lives in the house in which we grew up, it seems there is a special connection when we’re together in his home or in the back yard. That house will always be the place we call home.

My mom passed away on a beautiful Friday night in May of 2019. I started writing the next day when I responded to an email from my out-of-town friends who’d sent their condolences. They didn’t know my mother. At the end of my letter to them, I noticed I was telling them about her life.

And so it started – my writing.

The sorting of her estate began soon after she passed away. Within one of many of her cardboard boxes, I found a letter that took no detective work to figure out I was the baby she was writing about in her letter to home.  

Dear Kids,

Will you ever love this live doll baby that I have with me over here?

I got to hold her for the first time this morning about 6 o’clock. I was still kind of sleepy so didn’t fuss with her much. But when I got her at 10 o’clock, I really looked her over –

She has a nice little round head like Lee.

A smile like Darrell’s

A nose like Donnie’s.

Eyes like Carolyn.

Lips like Elaine’s.

Cute little ears like Jayne’s.

Dimples like Eddie’s.

She is soft and smooth like Marcia.

Short like Grandma.

Not much hair like Grandpa.

Cries like her mom – and put her together, she’s a big “Doll” like her Dad.

I think I’ll put a big ribbon on her and put her under the Christmas tree.

Love, Mom 

I was in awe as I held the letter in my hand. I knew I truly had something of great value: I have a letter from my mother written the day after I was born. The letter was to my four older brothers and my four older sisters, and it was about me.

And my mom had told me she really did take me home and put me under the Christmas tree.

Three years later, my mother wrote this letter to her nine children while she was in the same hospital with baby number ten – Jeanette.

Dear Kids,

We have another little fat dolly over here. I got to hold her for the first time about 10 o’clock. Dr. Boerger came in soon after. He said she looks like she belongs to the family.

I looked her over from head to toe. She had to sneeze, she burped, she had the hic-cups, she tried to suck her fist and also tried to scratch her face with her fingernails already. I believe she is well put together and every part is working fine. God has been good to us.

Did you girls realize we have another dish washer? What does Marlene think? What are you going to name her? How about Jean Ellen and call her Jeanie. But you decide.

Love, Mom  (over)

On the back side of the letter, she wrote…

Don’t change the beds this week-end. We’ll do it when I get home.

Don’t forget to get the bassinette home from Grandmas and clean it up – o.k.

Marcia try to do all the ironing you can this Saturday and Jayne and other girls can clean up house. All help each other (no fighting) please.

Boys play together nice so no one gets hurt.

See you, Love Mom

Jeanette was born on a Wednesday. Mom told the girls not to change the bed sheets on the weekend because she wanted it done when she got home, so apparently she stayed in the hospital through the weekend. 

The hospital bill and payment receipt are in Jeanette’s scrapbook.  The bill was $126.00, and the insurance policy through Edgerton Hardware had paid $118.00. You could say Jeanette cost my mom and dad $8.00.

I also found a box of handwritten letters that had been sent to my grandmother Lula Bowers Imm. Grandma was born in 1888, and these letters were dated 1903 through 1918.

Apparently Grandma was single at the time and resided in Elkhart, Indiana. She worked at a place called Tea Garden. I’d love to go back in time and see the place.  What did they serve there? Was it a restaurant? I think a trip to Elkhart is in order.

Grandma’s collection of letters share a picture of what life was like at the turn of the century. They wrote about their horses, material to make a table scarf, sweeping the cellar, and how many bushels and cans of food they had preserved. They were baking bread and making soap. They sold turkeys and hens and discussed the prices.

They used the words “grand” and “dandy” in their everyday language. Many of their sentences started with “Say.”

There was talk of when Grandma Lula might be planning to come home to Waterloo. They spoke of travel by passenger train between Waterloo and Elkhart.

I learned who was marrying whom, who robbed the cradle, and tidbits of funny stuff.   

If Mom hadn’t have been a saver, I wouldn’t be having such a dandy time sorting through old letters and newspaper clippings. Estates can give you so much material, you could write volumes.

My second book Stevie, from the Picket Fences series, will be in print soon. It hit some snags which caused a delay. After we made it through the delay, more delays were waiting for their turn to hold things up.    

But say… it’ll be a grand day when I finally announce his book made it through the hoops. When it’s available, I’ll write a letter to home. 

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