Besides their visual appeal, the letters are fine gifts of Jeanie’s heart and mind. Her writing flows, springing from her soul’s deepest longings. She recognized that once in the mail, her sentiments would sprout wings and sail into the heart of Frank—for good and bad. For, as we all know how easy it is to press the send button with an unclear thought shooting across cyberspace, her letters frequently misrepresented what she wanted to say. Imagine it taking TWO WEEKS to realize what you wrote created the wrong impression on the reader—on the man you desperately wanted to please most (we’ll talk about Jeanie’s attempts to mold herself to Frank’s image of a woman in a later post!).
Now, I’d be hard-pressed to hand write a letter. Heck, I was irritated having to write the three-line note I just scribbled to my son’s teacher for an early, dental dismissal. To think I’d sit down and construct a full-blown accounting of my heart, my day, my troubles, or hopes to a friend would be as far from my mind, as say, the days of the prairie 129 years ago.
Yet, when I read Jeanie’s letters, when I look at them, their beauty is undeniable. The fact that they were passed from Frank, to his son, to my mother and to me and that they are their own little messengers from the grave appeals to me greatly.
One of my favorite magazines, Mary Jane’s Farm brings the topic of “The Handwritten Life,” to its lovely pages. Reading that magazine feels a lot like reading Jeanie’s letters, like I’m stepping into another world, if only a few moments. The article makes clear that Mary Jane is actually a practitioner of real, actual handwriting, she uses it regularly, she finds calm and beauty in the process.
Maybe it’s partly my multiple sclerosis, the way my fingers seem cramp and seize up that makes handwriting a chore to me, the numbness too big an obstacle for me to overcome just to enjoy the flow of words from my fingertips. But I can certainly appreciate the efforts of others. And boy, every time I read Jeanie’s letters I feel gratitude, so lucky that her life survived on paper the way it has.
And, I think maybe just maybe, if I start small, with teeny postcards or something, I could send a little heartfelt happiness to those who I love so much.
Well, it’s a thought.