Last week, my kids and I visited my mom for her birthday with Sweet Mandy B's cupcakes in hand. After getting our collective sugar fix out of the way, we spoke about a recent Chicago Tribune article about a man who found old letters from the 1940s discarded in an alley and how he decided to track down the family and return it to them. It was a great piece that dipped into the history of the time and revealed a much needed example of human kindness to strangers.
Out of nowhere, my mom pulled out a tattered box of letters from 1963 that my dad had written her while in bootcamp in Missouri. I don't even know where she pulled them from, but they were well worn and clearly cherished, especially since my dad passed away in 2015.
My mom read through one or two quickly, her voice quivering and hands shaky. You could hear a pin drop in the room, my mouth gaping open and her two sugar-high grandkids buzzing but silent. In those minutes, we all got a glimpse of my dad before he was Dad and G-Pa, and also saw my mom, a.k.a. Miss Foley, in a new light. He was a lovelorn kid counting the days until their wedding, and she was the Muse with a nickname of "Max." After almost sixty years, she doesn't remember where that one came from, but Zoe delighted in calling her G-Ma 'Max' for the day.
Now my birthday is approaching and I told her that instead of presents, I wanted only to read the rest of those letters. She laughed and said she would have to go through and censor them first, even though we're both certain my older brothers read them years ago without her knowing. It's funny how something as simple and sweet as a love letter can bring a loved one back into consciousness. I felt my dad's presence there in the room with us, and I haven't stopped thinking about that young guy from the South Side of Chicago who just missed his fiancé.
Do you know your stories of your parents before they were parents? Do your kids know them? It's the best present anyone could ask for.