It appears my maternal grandmother, Myrtle, kept every letter my grandfather, Martin, sent home during the war, and preserved them in their original envelopes inside a shoebox.
Martin didn’t save every letter Myrtle sent him. Realities of war probably prevented that. He moved around from base to base, and there wasn’t a lot of room for personal belongings. But I suspect all the letters that he did bring home with him ended up being preserved with everything else the two of them saved.
Myrtle also saved a large number of letters her father sent her during the latter half of the 1920s. He wrote her weekly, and the letters indicate she wrote him weekly as well. Though we don’t have any of the letters she wrote to him.
On the other hand, Martin’s mother, Helen, saved many of the letters Martin and Myrtle sent her. And when she passed, those letters were discovered and preserved by my grandfather.
A recent conversation brought to mind the unusual nature of the letter. It is one of the few mediums where it is rare that the author maintains a copy of his/her work.
I am addicted to writing. Blog posts, poetry, fiction, emails. For all of these, I have preserved electronic copies of that which I consider important. However, this isn’t the case with the letters I have written.
I have had a computer since the mid-1980s, and there are a handful of letters I’ve written that were saved, and somehow made it through multiple hard drive crashes. (some were sent, some unsent). However, other letters didn’t get preserved. At least, not by me. And I wonder if the recipient still has a copy.