My wife told me about a letter from her great-grandfather to her grandfather that she is taking to her brother. What a treasure! I doubt the author thought of his penned letter as a treasure when he wrote it. So it is for much, or most, of what we write to friends and family. Correspondence of today is a treasure for generations hence. What letters do you have? I got to thinking about that and the box of correspondence that I have been collecting and holding for decades.
I have a box of items, writings and memorabilia that I began to collect when I was nine or so. Included in the cardboard box – I call it my Wonder Years box for the television show by the same name which represents my era – is pretty much every letter and note I received from friends, most of whom were girls. Many are taped on the creases for having read them so many times as a coming-of-age boy-to-man. I have a letter or two that my brother wrote me before I was old enough to read and he was in Korea with the Air Force after the war. I have notes written to me on torn scraps of grocery bags when I worked at Handy Andy grocery store. There is a lot of growing up in those notes and letters, though I admit to not having opened the box in a decade or more.
I never really thought about why I kept them, but I knew somehow that I should. One of the stories I wrote when I was 12 and poems I wrote in high school appeared in my book Daddin’: The Verb of Being a Dad.
Perhaps the writings will illuminate ideas for a book (perhaps the one I am working on now about growing up in Houston!). Perhaps someone will reach out to me someday and I ask for them so they can better understand their mother when she was a young woman. Perhaps they will remain there until I am gone and my sons, granddaughters and grandsons read them to better understand me. Who knows? The point is that we don’t need to know why we keep treasures. We never know when personal writings as poetry, letters or stories become a treasure to someone else.
Sadly, the era of text messages and emails have stolen from our collections the writings of friends and family. Maybe we should be printing many of them and putting in a box for future generations.