Monday, August 18, 2014

love letters lost in time

In the 1930s my parents met in Veracruz, Mexico, fell in love and later married.

Some seventy six years later their love letters turned up -- first in an old barn and second in a town dump.  Given the miracle that such letters might resurface after so much time, I was surprised at my reluctance to read them. It has taken more than a year to get to them.

I am now reading them with awe. Here are two people I knew intimately for much of my life. They are gone now but their voices remain, clear and strong in these handwritten love letters, which go up and down with their moods. But my point is this -- I thought I knew them.  At almost 70 myself, I should have long ago figured out who the two beings whom I called my parents were. But here I am stumped because what I have discovered is that I did not know them. Not the way I thought I did.

The letters are proof that we only know what we think we see. The senses are tricksters and my two parents are as much shrouded in mystery as ever, but I know them better now. Their innermost thoughts are revealed in their passionate outpourings. And I feel blessed reading these love letters, though I sometimes feel like an interloper, or perhaps even a stalker, reading them. Yet I am given a window into the personalities of two human beings who made me what I am. The evidence is all here on these rat-chewed, time-worn documents. My mother's calligraphic letters are still fragrant with thirties perfume. My father's are almost hierglyphic -- his handwriting is described by her as a bunch of "pollywogs moving across a piece of paper."

Maybe the thing I'm seeing most clearly is the passion these two illumined beings shared. How deeply they loved life, loved one another. This reminds me that, in truth, their love never diminished over the years but grew. I think, sometimes, my brother and I felt on the outside of it. Truly, I have never met two people who stayed so much in love as my parents. I always knew this to be true, but the evidence here, the hundreds of letters from 1937-1941, is very convincing. They were who they were, always. We, my brother and I, lost in our own reveries, could not always see it that way. But now I do.

Yes, something of a literary event is happening. The letters, once put in order, will come out as a book. And it will sort of be like reality TV in a time of trouble -- the 1930s. I, for one, really look forward to reading this love story when it is organized and put between covers. The story of the barn and dump will be in there ... things like this don't happen very often, and when they do such curious miracles ought to be celebrated. So there is a love story, and there is also the story of the love story: how it came to be found.

More to come ....

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