Sunday, January 13, 2008

letters from long ago

yesterday i discovered a cache of 30 or 40 letters. they were written by my mother to my grandmother and my great-grandfather during the period when my parents were divorcing and before my mother and stepfather had married.

to read these letters from the vantage point of 40 years is both sad and insightful because they chronicle my mother's attempt to reconcile her mother and her grandfather with her decision to divorce my father and marry my stepfather, who was a catholic priest at the time they met.

it is sad because i understand both what my mother so desperately wanted and why she could never ever have it. the gulf that separates my mother from hers is as wide as her boarding school education, as deep as her college degrees, as long as all her years of therapy. i pointed that out to her one day, not too many years ago.

my mother never understood me, she said.

how could she, i asked. she has the worldview of a 19th century european peasant. you've got the worldview of a 20th century american princess. on what playing field did you expect to meet? she laughed, but i was serious.

there is one other thing i noticed about all the letters. my mother talks about my father, my brother, my soon-to-be-stepfather, my aunts and my cousins. she shares snippets of conversations, of accomplishments, of hopes and dreams and goals, chronicles daily woes, inquires and relates much about health, her own and everyone else's.

in all thirty-something letters, she mentions me exactly once.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

2 comments:

~~ Cynthia ~~ said...

One of the very few things I have that belonged to my mom & dad is a similar packet of letters, written during their engagement and the first year of their marriage. Their entire life together was foreshadowed in that packet: their deep love for one another, but also the problems that would lead them to the brink of divorce several times. They never really overcame or even dealt with the problems -- they just lived through them. Until I read the letters I envied their movie-like romance -- after I spent time with them, I cherished my own marriage much more -- less romance maybe, but far greater substance and compatability.

Stacie said...

That is sad. Mother issues are hard to overcome. I know.