Who are these silent strangers waiting for me to know who they are?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Road not Taken

I have been delving into the genealogy like a miner digging for the mother lode. Sometimes, I admit I slip into the role of a child making mud cakes and often I feel like I am digging a hole in sand. So many lives to sift through to find the one you want to know about. It is with regret that I set aside some of those, perhaps to come back to someday. As I read about the 'mark' that others have left behind, I wonder what mark I will leave, if any.
Today I am looking deeper at Cousin Howard. He was my mother-in-laws cousin and so related only through marriage. Yet in some ways I feel he was a kindred spirit. It is so sad that I have met him only through his photos, letters and dry facts. In 1933 he met a girl at the Chicago World's Fair. They spent one day together before she went back to Oklahoma. But, she wrote to him and he wrote back. They wrote to each other for at least 3 years before they were married and living in the same house. Howard saved every one of Bernadean's letters. I am transcribing them slowly and pondering the choices each of them made.

Letter number 1

August 28, 1933 from Bernadean

Dear Howard,

Have you forgotten me yet? From Oklahoma - you know. We’ve been gone almost 48 hours which is after all quite some time.

Quite obviously, we arrived alright. So far as I know only lost two things on the trip - my National Honor Society Pin and a pair of gloves. Had a nice trip home. Slept most of the way to St. Louis. Ate dinner as soon as we got on the Tulsa train and then slept on in. My sister was at the station which I certainly didn’t expect at 6:30 a.m. She is leaving tomorrow. Going to St. Louis. Will stay if she can get a job. Already I can tell my family are going to object to my staying alone all winter. My sister had all my books and things cleaned up and stacked out of sight so that I scarcely recognized the place.

I have lots to do, honey, since this is cleaning time but do hope I shall hear from you very soon. If I don’t why of course I shall not write again.


Bernadean Jones

I also have contrast this letter with another he saved from a different young lady. These two women were worlds apart.

August 24, 1933 from K.R. Cady 1098 Spring Atlanta, GA

Dear Howie,

I’m writing under difficulties - a very juicy pear in one hand, and a very talkative Annie Laurie (the dumbest nigger in the world) making much disturbance while making my bed & hanging up my clothes. I don’t know which is worse. They’ll both be gone soon, though.

I feel very much ashamed of myself for not writing before since you were sweet enough to write me that nice letter. But you see, Howie, I was up in the mountains and I had a guest with me. Being the perfect hostess, I had to turn into the non-perfect (infact, awful) correspondent. The guest, invited for a week, stayed the entire month I was there. My Aunt kept renewing the invitation. Well, I just got back into civilization a couple of days ago.

Oh Howie, I hate to think my summer is most over. I looked forward to it for so long. The mountains were grand. I lived in shorts, anklets and muleskin moccasins.

Interruption - my cousin just brought down a few chapters of her newest novel for me to read back to her, and to comment on. It’s well - Loving for Luck - you’ll have to read it when it comes out. There’s a lot of me in it, and she threatens to dedicate it to me - isn’t that exciting!

As I was saying about the mountains. You would have loved the life. One night I slept out under the full moon, on top of a mountain. Many mornings we got up in the dark, and set out over the ridge to see the sun rise and cook breakfast up in the clouds. We took all day canoe trips and explored caves with lovely waterfalls. And, I could go on forever.

But now it’s Atlanta again, and that means society. Thats kinda fun too. Two formal dances at the clubs every week, and then buffet suppers, teas, and swimming-parties. And meeting prominent people. My authoress cousin is giving a formal dinner at the club tonite for a lovely debutante who is now in the movies - hot dog!

And people wonder why I like the South. You don’t, do you, Howie? But I’ll be back soon, with this household of cousins in tow.They’ll be with me two weeks - It’ll help my home sickness. but you’ll have to help too.

As Always


I know a few facts about Howard and somehow it feels like a teaser, a preview of coming attractions. I can't wait to see how this all works out.

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