Several years ago I opened a box of papers and found this Hallmark Date Book 1955.
Memories are the food for my stories so finding an old personal calendar to fill in gaps is a great blessing.
By January 1 1955 Jim Schoettler and I were a couple. Most dates are marked with something to do with "dating" Jim from a "coffee with Jim" to "marrying Jim today" on December 30.
So - today --- 60 years ago - - I was excited and nervous as I packed the last items in my suitcase so I would be ready to leave home tomorrow - - for a honeymoon week-end in Washington, DC before we put the key in the lock at our waiting apartment in Baltimore. We never guessed that we would return to the Washington area in 1964 and live out our lives there.
During the polo epidemic of 1944 my mother became so frightened for our safety that she arranged for me and my sister Lynda to live with the Sisters of Mercy at their "mother house" in Belmont, NC. She felt that living on their farm would be safer for us. I celebrated my ninth birthday there that summer - and I also learned how important receiving mail can be which has left me with a particular appreciation and love of letters.
My love of letters continued whether they were mine or written by strangers. Years later as I delved into genealogy and storytelling I became enamored with old letters because of the stories they hold. I look for letters in old boxes in back rooms, in library collections and in local history files.
One afternoon at the Historical Society in the District of Columbia I asked to read "domestic files" and I found this letter -
In 1845, from her parental home in Washington, DC, Normanstone, Dora Barnard writes to her finance John Higgins three days before their wedding.
My dear Sir,
I fully intended writing yesterday but was prevented. I have attended to your requests and I have finished sewing much to my relief.
I believe all planning is done, everything goes on smoothly. I went into the store room today to pack something away ready to be sent up and I deliberately sat down by the side of the trunk and took a good cry. That's just the way I am when I am excited.
Do not think it is regret, for my determination to leave all, and cleave to thee, Oh, no.
But this leaving causes struggles. I tremble also at the responsibility I am incurring. I suppose you are calmer than myself.
Now, good-bye till Tuesday.
Yours - - for the last time - - S. Dora Barnard
What a lovely surprise to find this sweet letter. When I read it I felt connected to Dora Barnard across 110 years.
Finding the little calendar brought back memories of how I felt the night before Jim and I married. Writing this tonight reminded me of Dora's letter. I knew just where to find it because I often use it in a program about stories written in letter by ordinary women across the years.
Another gift from storytelling.