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Before she left from her summer vacation, my sister asked for the name of the mason who repaired the chimney 11 years ago. I dug through my closets, because I knew there was a file box somewhere with that and so much more information on her cottage hidden in the top of a shelf.

What I didn’t expect to find was a file folder, yellowed and stapled to capture all the scraps and small bits of letters, the clippings and old photos secreted away during a busier time of life. I spread the notes out on my bed, crawled between the covers and journeyed off to many years ago.

Nine short years go I was renovating this house, moving two teen-aged daughter into their final and first years of high school, in a new town, and betting this was the path to take. It was a time when my mother and I were still speaking. I called her religiously every day, visited Arizona when I could tack it on to a business trip, which was at least four times a year in those days of corporate adventure. Meanwhile the home front was a battlefield as Lex, Hannah and I lived in the master suite end of the house, sharing a bed in the case of Hannah and I. Gutting our new home meant carving out a new routine for ourselves. The three of us also shared way too many hormones as we tried to find our persona in a world of divorce and upheaval.

During this phase my mother was supportive. She saw me regularly enough, and between our phone conversations and our letters,  she knew  I wasn’t just struggling, I had created my own private hell of motherhood.

Rereading those letters, those handwritten missives of wisdom and support, I can forgive her all the misery we caused each other in later years. She did her best and she did her worst when she knew it would teach me a lesson I was getting too arrogant to learn…

Oct. 26th, 05

Dear Marthé,

Wouldn’t it be lovely if motherhood came with a guide book? But, Dr. Spock not withstanding, it doesn’t. We feel our way, be our children five or fifty.

You are frequently on my mind and in my prayers. Please listen to the still small voice…

Love you,


Here is the original:


I am fortunate to have been born to a woman who loved to write…


9 comments on “The Packet of Letters…

  1. Chris F says:

    And I certainly recognize that distinctive handwriting!


    1. Distinctive indeed! Not always easy to read but she was prolific!


      1. Chris F says:

        Whew. Glad I’m not the only one who had trouble deciphering.


  2. Touring NH says:

    I think there is something new to be learned every time we walk down memory lane.


    1. It’s paved with snapshots of life!


    1. Thank you Alan. I hope to have her wisdom some day…


  3. mariekeates says:

    Mothers and daughters. My mother and I fell out when I was in my late teens. A family secret about me, kept from me for too long and ungraciously revealed, shattered my life and I couldn’t forgive. As time passed we got past it but there was always something in the background. I couldn’t unknow it or quite forgive. Now she’s gone I think I understand better and feel bad for the years we wasted.


    1. Marie, I have pondered your comment for hours, so many emotions that are still raw, years later. I wish we had not wasted the time being angry, but perhaps that was the lesson to be learned. Thank you…


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